Black Painting #8: Predicament
Portrait of Joan Mitchell

Sharon Dolin

It's the same predicament:
what to start with, what to fix
on--causes or results,
feelings or the outer effects

this was a way of knowing
this ecstatic embrace
this yes to windy clouds
passing a skyscape
where land had been obliterated

could be a continent forming
could be chicken scratch
is just chicken scratch

there is no original whiteness
only spaces being filled up
then blocked out

so if she keeps going
past the white cigarette
past the favorite part of the day
when attention has already slid
into a contemplative pool

then the application of this red
now this blue then an olive region

until the eye refreshes itself
as at dusk when colors become
showy flowers before closing
themselves into shade

now it has passed--
and the way shifts
to an impermanent yellow of what ifs
and can I

a retreat moving toward
the center and its perimeter
each one truly indistinguishable

try drawing a reflection
with a stick that has
agitated the surface
into a giddy muddle
just beginning to settle

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Published in association with the University of Pennsylvania Writers House
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