Harold Rhenisch

There is a small green stone in my driveway
that was Picasso once -- when he was living
right in the surface layer of his perception.
On one side floated the midges and damselflies
of a horsetail-scented dusk, the radioactive,
primal world splitting
from the scum of pine pollen on the belly of the air,
poisonous, impossible to touch;
on the other side the dark, untouchable shadows,
ten thousand years of condensed mist,
and rain, and the cold-blooded,
unblinking bottomfish. At the middle was Picasso,
in the immeasurably thin skin of light
playing over the water of his retina,
in all the reflected and glowing colours
of trees and houses and clouds
and reeds -- casting them back on the sky.

That might be enough for Picasso now,
but for me the lake and trees burn there
only when I watch them from the shore: seen from the sky,
the lake is the grey and white sky. Today
I am raking the gravel of my driveway, trapped,
as Picasso was trapped. The stone
slips through the teeth of the rake
with a low sound, like a hammer
striking a small clay bell. The lake burns a hundred metres away,
through the lilies of the valley and the cloud anenomes,
casting me, and my rake,
against the trees on the far shore,
as light. This is a particularly human problem.

That Picasso has come back into the stillness of a pebble
is, however, also a particularly
human problem, and that is why I am raking the gravel today,
in the dimensionless air after grey rain,
the clouds towering above the hills
as the black terns lift mosquitoes off the face of the lake
and swallow them. They taste like grass. A skiff
of wind spills in a slow, silver arc across the water
and the tiny, two-inch fish -- the spring's spawn --
break the surface with their lips,
like stones, skipping,
then sink back into the reflected trees.

The East Village Poetry Web