Thursday 6 October 2016

COACHWHEEL YELLOW: a poem for National Poetry Day

Apparently today is National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom. Because I've just been to see the Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy, I was looking for a poem I've done called 'Zinc Door' after the Franz Kline painting which is hanging at that show. I found two other Klines, 'Torches Mauve' and 'Blueberry Eyes', but not 'Zinc Door' on which I've been working intermittently for years, since seeing the painting in, I think, Washington. But while I was looking I came across the manuscripts of this poem, 'Coachwheel Yellow'. I wrote it in May and June of 1978, and it has some personal resonances that go back to that time. Reading it now, I also feel a bit of Robert Creeley it in, which I'm sure I didn't realise at the time, but I now wonder if that influence is exactly why I chose a villanelle; I haven't done much in such strict forms (for good reason, you may say, as I improvised on the secondary rhyme, rather than sticking to just one pair). It may or may not have been published in a magazine called Rogue Raven sometime in 1979....if anyone knows, I'd appreciate a heads-up...


I always wanted to be able to draw.
Have something made solely by eye and hand.
There were paintings in my poems you never saw,

You heard my dreams, but couldn't understand
That my frustrated fingers felt useless, dead weight.
I always wanted to be able to draw:

Those nights in the greenhouse, working late
To convince myself, despite what you said,
There were paintings in my poems. You never saw.

"Your words are your body. Your body's dead,"
You told me, and because it was true that
I always wanted to be able to draw,

I continued to write what I could, but knew that
It was not what you wanted. In words you despised
There were paintings. In my poems you never saw

There were paintings of you. Reflected eyes,
Which, if you'd seen, you'd have recognized
I always wanted to be able to draw.

There were paintings in my poems you never saw.

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