13 Nov 2023
After Mikhail Vrubel’s
The Demon Seated (1890)
Unswallowed again: Tretyakovskaya station and on
into the game. Marbles and hard footing. My thumb
licks the palm-pressed note, proxies the creature
who dared slip it in, now another body in this river.
The gallery consents me enter, unfussed; as if my tongue
is not the stumble it is, as if my knees are not raw
from months trying to please this language. I come home
to myself where heaven has opened, muscled its reject
with sun. Light sweats and cries over his limbs, as he, the fallen
silent, cannot. Hours bid their shadows crevice and cavern, hiding
in the displaced mountain of this hall. Our dimensions hold
hands and splash over terrain. How long have I been willing
the demon to carriage his gaze, see me back. His neck as grace
oiled, a door sliding open. Ink cursives his nape, tails a time
and a place and an admonition—hard I have fallen. This sin
will prison me. If I’m right about you, meet me at the risk
of dark. Keep your angel mouth closed. Until.
Behind the poem...
My poem Falling quietly: Moscow, 1999 was inspired by my favourite painting – Mikhail Vrubel’s The Demon Seated. It hangs in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, and I was very fortunate to see it when I was a young man. I spent hours in front of this huge canvas, quite unable to move. The poem it would later inspire in me has a queer subtext: the experience of this art – and too, this visit – as a displaced person in months of strangeness was a consolidation of identity in more ways than I could count.