18 May 2009

Elizabeth Arnold

[from Elizabeth Arnold's The Reef, University of Chicago, 1999]

I [excerpt]

Unlike Bacon's other portraits -- George Dyer's face
stuck in a table in Paris,
or Isabel Rawthorne's primal nose holes (minus the noes),
the mouth pulled like a sloppy rubber band
across her face, each picture
starting some new ghost
or fury, as if he saw no limit to its interaction with the meat --

the 1973 self-portrait, as if the man
were all one piece, holds still,
a yellow plastic watch around the wrist, the face
like it's been smashed but nothing's broken,
its flesh pulled like some putty, up,
and dented. But then the hands,
trying to hug the knees, are blurred and even disappear in places,

moving the eye back to the face that, in another study,
was half blown away,
leaving only Bacon's own characteristic cobwebbed x-rayed look,
where everything that happens
happens into nothingness.
                         As in this later portrait,
where below the yellow watch the hands go out.
And then the shirt (you see it now) and what arises

from the table farther over, from the hat
or bowl -- our everydayness -- unstopped
by the edges of the canvas, a column of blackness

threatening, now that he's older, to fill in the whole
window Bacon's opened, for himself, for us,
of himself fearing falling through.

Buy Elizabeth Arnold's book @ Amazon

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