Poetry Issue #46

Nude Study from Life, Lee Krasner, 1938

By Lisa Beech Hartz


Crossing 8th Street in the rain Igor laughed, /
dropped your hand. I like being with an ugly woman. / Angle of the streetlight, silvering everything, even / his careless mouth. It makes me feel more handsome.
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Lisa Beech Hartz

Featured Poet

Nude Study from Life, Lee Krasner, 1938
charcoal on paper, 25 ½ x 20 inches

Crossing 8th Street in the rain Igor laughed,
dropped your hand. I like being with an ugly woman.

Angle of the streetlight, silvering everything, even
his careless mouth. It makes me feel more handsome.

You soaked through as the water, cool, slipped
and pooled. Hewing, casting. He rounded

the corner and for a moment you were gone.
You know you must be grieving –

the near-constant sense of his receding –
but the charcoal in hand invigorates. Wakes.

The sweep and scour across the surface,
reclaiming. She emerges. Breast, thigh, cunt, eye

and torso. Black line, Softer gray crosshatch.
But to complete her, Lee Krasner,

to give her light:
You make her from erasure.

Mosaic Collage, Lee Krasner, 1939-40
paper collage on paper, 18 x 19 ½ inches

At Café Society Downtown,
Albert Ammons pounds

the ivories on Shout for Joy.
You and Mondrian boogie-woogie

in that subterranean, banging
joint. You give the rhythm

your long limbs but you can
hardly keep up with him. Here

are the spins and tappings. The sizzle-
pep-kicks. All the stomp, swoop

and moxie, while the world above
shatters on its axis. So much action,

a kind of super-stasis. But still,
you put it in the mix, Lee Krasner:

Full color aerial view from the bomber.
Violet shimmies into brick,

and yellow jumps. Little black boxes
in a clutch, or lined up in avenues.

Syncopated, sprung city. How many
generations of refugee? After,

in the unclaimed hours when the gaslights
compete with sunrise, the steam will emanate

from the grates on Sixth Avenue like last breath.
The streets will reek of bread, grease and ash.

Pollock’s Studio, 46 East 8th Street, New York City, 1941

It’s late ’41 before you see him again. You walk
the one Village block – just one between you all this time –

to climb his narrow stairs. What did you think you’d find there,
Lee Krasner? What desert prophet, what high

plains godling? He opens the door three knocks in. Looks
shook awake. Clouded eyes averted. Dungarees and shirttail

haggard. Must have been some dream, you say, and enter.
It’s not the work that wins you, not just yet.

The paintings – propped –show promise, sure, but lean
a ways away from genius. It’s his prowl and stammer.

Weight shift. Battle-weary hands and gait. In these five years
the world’s gone feudal. The hunt for Jews resumed. Soon

you’ll be scanning the skies for warnings. Pollock’s war
at home, within, unending. You know how to move. Intone,

seduce. It takes time – the message radio-relayed to the front
and back. But soon enough, he’ll wise up to haven.

By ’42, he’ll choose you. Anything can happen now
and will.

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), Jackson Pollock, 1950
Oil, enamel and aluminum on canvas, 87 x 118 inches

It hovers, its own galaxy, between Hartigan and Lewis,
(her smeary red, his two-tone hieroglyph) post-detonation.

I gaze. I glean. Constellate what I can. Enter:
a docent with her audience of four. They pause beside

the blue-glow Rothko. He wanted us to weep, you know,
she says, and guides them toward me and this infamous mist.

Emphasis on action, she says. Catharsis. Misquotes the telegram,
a Pollock-retort: “No chaos, dammit. Pure painting.

Meanwhile my eye collects turquoise webs, flung silver. Two
spots of orange, one eye-sized, why? He had psychological

problems, she says. He drank too much. A bird’s eye view?
Splayed-leaf treetops of Montauk, the Hither Hills

as the thirst haunts. A map of waking, sun breaking through
a rain-heavy cloud. Unprimed canvas, you see?

House paint tossed across the floor. He circled round
and round again. He drove his car into a tree.

The visitors lean away as one. Some say suicide.
Docent somehow forgets the girl – also dead – friend

to the surviving lover. This myth — the one you hoped
would stick, Lee Krasner, in which he dies alone. Just

Pollock, the man, splatter-spree-stick flown from his hand.
The most important artist of his time.

The City, Lee Krasner, 1953
oil on paper collage on Masonite, 48 x 36 inches

In a rage you take it all down, a studio flung
with drawings floor to ceiling. Slash, savage, wrench –

cover the boards with this tempest. A thousand
cleaves and fissures. A tatter of fractions and spurs.

Days later, you return to sift through the settlings.
What appears? This metropolis of shreds, of shards

you’d hoped to leave behind. Dark alleys, harrowing,
and the neon lures. Walk-ups of friends too drunk

on Pollock-glory to understand the beast the hooch
unleashed. They’ve followed you out

to the Sound, to the Bay, a poison pilgrimage.
A few will say they saw you tripped, tossed. The tell-

tale bruise and the blackened eye. So many
late-night bottles, battles drained. And the nights

you tour the haunts to fetch him home. It’s madness,
they say, to try to save a drowning man alone.

Leviathan: he pulls you in, again and again.
Eye on the horizon, Lee Krasner. Assemble,

patch, reclaim anew the severed. Collage a revisioned
village. Talisman against the monster.

By Lisa Beech Hartz

Lisa Beech Hartz directs Seven Cities Writers Project which brings creative writing and literacy support programs to underserved communities. She guides workshops in a city jail and an LGBTQ community center. Her ekphrastic collection, The Goldfish Window, was published by Grayson Books in 2018. The poems appearing here are drawn from a working manuscript exploring the life and work of Abstract Expressionist Lee Krasner.