All Art is Analogy

by suecartledge

Stone gods small

This is a poem I wrote about 5 years ago, after having coffee with an elderly painter. He clearly enjoyed having an audience, and was very forceful in his views. I went home and wrote the first draft while the memory of his words stayed fresh.

This poem is in my ‘Talking to the gods’ section of Songs from a New Place. Not that I considered this artist a god—far from it, although he was a skilful portrait painter. But he clearly suggested he was channelling his god, so this seemed the right place for it. All Art (one version was also called Flat People) is another of my “ekphrastic” poems (poetry jargon for poems in response to some art form). You’ll find some more on the Talking to the gods page.

 All Art is Analogy

All art, all language, is analogous, he said.

Nothing we make or say is real, true,

only what’s in here, banging his chest between

the braces over his blue checked shirt. Only feelings are real.

And colours.

because you squeeze them from the tube to the palette,

from the brush to the canvas

without alteration. They are what they are.

 Trust your hand, he said. I thought it should have been

trust your eye.

It’s as well he said hand, for my eyes are untrustworthy.

Blurry and doubled, they lie to me.

Nothing that I see is true. My vision is analogous

to the distortions within, because nothing is real

except what’s here under my ribs, behind

the breasts moulding my yellow tee. Who’s there?

Passion? heartache? loss? fear?

Trust your hand. Bypass the planning mind.

 When the artist and the sitter come together, they create

a new person, he said. A novel offspring from their union:

the artwork.

A flat person, alive in its painted canvas skin.

“I believe in God when I’m painting,” he quoted; then: God

didn’t have time to create flat people, so we artists do the work.

I’m a thinking animal, I replied. No god within.

My flat people crawl out of my brain

onto my page.

They writhe and wrestle with their sorrowful joys,

seeking their truth in the tumbled landscape of my language.

  Yet, nothing I say is true. It never happened. It wasn’t me.

I was someone else at the time. I’m a writer:

can you really trust my hand?

I’m a metaphor junkie, simile needlepricks scab my lines. I’d say

anything for a fix – jokes, puns, lies, mutterings from my subconscious,

the literal bloody truth.

My mouth spurts liquid blossoms across the paper’s sand

black purple, blue-green, bile yellow, rust,

pigments of decay

taken as read.