Wednesday 12 January 2022

Causley's Gorky

 Some months ago – in fact on the artist's birthday – I wrote briefly about this extraordinary painting, The Artist and His Mother, by Arshile Gorky. Now, browsing in Charles Causley's last collection, A Field of Vision, I find a wonderfully evocative ekphrastic poem, 'Arshile Gorky's The Artist and His Mother'. The final lines look forward to Gorky's suicide in 1948 when, after a terrible succession of calamities – a fire, cancer, a car accident in which his neck was broken, his wife leaving him – he hanged himself in his studio. On a wooden crate nearby he had written 'Goodbye My Loveds'. 

They face us as if we were marksmen, eyes
Unblindfolded, quite without pathos, lives
Fragile as the rose-coloured light, as motes
Of winking Anatolian dust. But in
The landscape of the mind they stand as strong
As rock or water.
                             The young boy with smudged
Annunciatory flowers tilts his head
A little sideways like a curious bird.
He wears against his history’s coming cold,
A velvet coloured coat, Armenian pants,
A pair of snub-nosed slippers. He is eight
Years old. His mother, hooded as a nun,
Rests shapeless, painted hands; her pinafore
A blank white canvas falling to the floor. 

Locked in soft shapes of ochre, iron, peach,
Burnt gold of dandelion, their deep gaze
Is unaccusing, yet accusatory.
It is as if the child already sees
His own death, self-invited, in the green
Of a new world, the painted visions now
Irrelevant, and arguments of line
Stilled by the death of love.
His miracle, he makes the last, long choice
Of one who can no longer stay to hear
Promises of the eye, the colour’s voice.

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