Winter 02


At Damascus Gate





I was a fakir playing a flute, 'The signifier
Represents a subject to another signifier,'

And from the basket of her classroom chair
Arose a tender cobra with smooth yellow hair,
Skin of a tulip petal aspiring to be marble,
Anthers nodding at the intrinsic
Crucifixion depicted on the sticky tips

Of its pistil's lips, unsatiated
With pollen dust, yet recomposing
At last the sullen pod that on a tree
Would be an apple, 'Macintosh
Or Delicious,'
hisses the serpent,
And around us the souk, flute music,
And intricate enigma of the quotidian:


Introduction to Literary Study.
It is the first day of spring. After ten years,
Picasso replaced that plump, fecund
And blonde Marie-Thérèse Walter,
With a brunette Croat from Argentina,
Dora Maar, veins in her temples pulsing
As if exquisite earthworms, the famous

Horse-faced 'Crying Woman' whose misery
Informed Guernica, his political masterpiece.
Maar had a breakdown in 1945,
Was found sitting naked in her apartment
Building's stairway, which offended
Picasso's passion for health, a.k.a.
Hypochondriacal delicacy.


He enlisted for her treatment Jacques Lacan,
Both men fascinated by Dora's history
As quondam paramour of that advanced
Theoretical pornographer, Georges Bataille,
Lacan already married to Bataille's ex-wife,
Sylvia Maklès, a regular labyrinth Paris
Always and in those days. Meanwhile,

The girl with the golden hair can't decide
Whether to doff her colorless sheepskin
Jacket with its wooly collar and cuffs
Or not. Our classroom's undeniably
Hot, but under the coat she's wearing
A sleeveless halter of plunging v-necked
Decolletage. Well, she eases her jacket


Onto bare shoulders, which obliges her
To wave at my face her cuffs' finger—
Length fur as if to inquire, "Is this okay?"
Our topic is meta-narrative, and how
Self-consciousness subverts it to create
The post-modern. Over the young woman's
Now totally exposed shoulders is sitting

A psychotherapist—(no lie)—who practices
In the suburbs of our fair city, holy
Portland, and he is glancing nervously
From her frail translucent clavicles
To me, Professor, tentative, protective—
Though if my eyes began to bulge
From my head as if to leap upon


A creme brulee without caramel, he'd have
Discreetly looked away, preoccupied
With our text, his notes. How small
Is a cobra's face, how venomous its bite,
How huge the umbrella of its hood,
Its aroused reservoir. Is the roof
Of its mouth pink and wet? Skin

Almost translucent alabaster? It lacks
Tonsils and larynx, never having bitten
An apple, but can paralyze a mouse
With its serum and swallow it whole,
Damascus Gate, where Saul of Tarsus
Departed for Syria, was struck by either


Lightning or epilepsy, and became Paul.
Jacques Lacan, who argued that time
Is non-sequential, and the unconscious
A convenience of language—as Picasso
Said of Dora Maar, "She was anything
You wanted, a dog, a mouse, a bird, an idea,
A thunderstorm!"—despaired of a cure

Without electro-shock, which sapped
Calcium from her bones, left her curved
Like a horse famously screaming
At the sky, except backwards, like many
Old women. Maar died at 89
In 1997. It's all we know, prisoners
Of thinking and seeing, cubist


Pieces of cobalt, ruby, and topaz glass
Seamed by poisonous lips—lead worms—
Acquiescence of a glimpse, each face
And facet of Dora Marr a cathedral window
Riddled with clear glycerine tears,
The crying woman's summons to failure
And success on the plateau of art

And sex, while everywhere within,
Below, the humanoid ubu roi,
A pale, brainless, embryonic thing
That hopes, suffers, cries, trusts, subject
To power and cruelty, instinct and care,
A pot-bellied monkey with larcenous eyes,
A very young girl with soft yellow hair.


Kenneth Rosen's first collection, Whole Horse, was selected by Richard Howard for the Braziller Poetry Series in 1970. Kenneth was living with his family in the village of Steep, England outside of Petersfield, Hants, under the auspices of the late British novelist, Penelope Mortimer, of The Pumpkin Eater fame, made into a motion picture starring Kenneth's favorite actor, James Mason, though Kenneth especially relishes Mason as Humbert Humbert in Kubrick's Lolita. Kenneth's sixth collection of poetry, The Origins of Tragedy is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press of Fort Lee, New Jersey. Recent poems have appeared in Paris Review, Marlboro Review, and River City. Kenneth has lived since 1966 in Portland, Maine and environs, where he is off and on a professor at the University of Southern Maine. He is recently returned from three weeks as a Fulbright professor in Egypt, and is en route to Ankara, Turkey where he will be a guest lecturer at the Middle Eastern Technical University, culminating his visit with a paper on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness at METU's 10th Annual Joseph Conrad Seminar, and explain the incessant aporia at the heart of darkness as a site of freedom and of course horror.