By DIDI JACKSON
There are days
I go to the mailbox
and find letters
from my dead husband
translating for me his suicide:
the cold blade softened into cursive,
his fear licked onto the stamp,
as the return address: the date of his death.
Go to meet redness.
Reach it with all the necessary brutality.
Refuse facile images. Self-portraits. Portraits of any sort.
But go without reserve, crushing water underfoot, unyielding to the childlike pleasure of splashes against naked legs.
Go as a painter.
Roll up trouser legs, remove espadrilles and dig your will into the torrent: meet the red there, take it captive. Bury your madness in the icy water.
Without dying of this.
Without speaking of it either.
Both a painting and a tableau I conceptualized in a feature film led to this poem, to which I connect -ed the cover photography of selected jazz albums and paintings by George Catlin. Colonel Guy
Johnson and Karonghyontye (Captain David Hill) (1776) is the work of Benjamin West, an eigh- teenth-century painter born in the Pennsylvania colony. Better known is his William Penn’s Treaty
with the Indians (1771); but I suspect the directors of the Daniel Day-Lewis Last of the Mohicans used it to create the film’s opening scene, where Magua (played by Wes Studi) steps out of the shadows.
Faces of warrior-counsel pronounce
In hearts shaped to recall only our treacherous deeds.
In that time, in that place, a few cars, a bus, on Belle Isle
seen from this side of the river, dark blue icy river,
on the other side of the Belle Isle Bridge Uniroyal Tire’s
bright silver smoke blown over the river to Canada,
time-bound, space-bound, a distinctive industrial space,
Ford Motor Company Dumping Station, the O-So Soda Pop
warehouse, Peerless Cement, railroad tracks on
the bridge to Zug Island—the smell from Wayne
Soap enough to make you puke—Ideal Bar, icon,
Black Madonna, blood-red slash down her right cheek,
I took a drive out to The Gallimaufry Goat Farm and was
struck by the vast assortment of goat life in one place.
Goats who’d go shock-still when startled, like a bolt
through the head, fall stiff as taxidermy to the ground.