Winter 2005



Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1915

I did not want to go there.
I do not want to be here.

Fourteen pallid young men, nude, flank a tall round stove
that heats water for the shower. Their captain, poised in a uniform
stands in tall boots, observes from canvas right.

The artillerymen receive frail water.
They seem to console each other.

Furnace opens its jaws
to dampness, to tears buried in throats,
to wails in the mind that cannot move
past eyelids and slumping or huddled figures
recoiling from warm water
they confront like their own tears
dropping from shower heads, poised
in a row of gallows above them.

The artillerymen have red hands
(dipped in blood of the dying?)
and red feet (steeped in blood of the dead?).

This painting groans.

Nazis shouted, “Degenerate Art!”
Killed your six hundred thirty-nine works.
You killed yourself.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: You bled the war
you could not bear, the broken
stumbling through slush bodies.

You simplify:
One must refuse. One must refuse.

I did not want to go there.
I do not want to be here.

“If need be,
I shall sacrifice my life
for art.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Note: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Retrospective Exhibition, May 2003, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., painting on loan from the Guggenheim Museum, New York City.

D. H. MELHEM, Ph.D., poet (Conversation with a Stonemason, IKON, 2003), novelist (Blight), and scholar (Gwendolyn Brooks; Heroism in the New Black Poetry). Other works include Rest in Love, Country, Notes on 94th Street; two anthologies (editor); a musical drama, and over 60 essays. Seventh collection, New York Poems (Syracuse University Press, Spring 2005, forthcoming).



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