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Mark McKain


after Simon Schama

I seek remnants of Bone Brown made from rendered gunk of cats, cats, ibis, hippos, bitumen, loamy geometry, apotropaic head, hearts weighted, sweat of future life.

Cuttlefish sepia goes well with murex purple or toxic-red cinnabar for fashion threads. Walls painted in Dragon’s Blood, madder root and red ochre. The eye delights in vivid hues, deadly as arsenite viridian or cadmium yellow; heavenly as azurite, lapis lazuli, ultra-distillation of marine at sunset.

Wrap me in canvas and the finest acid free rag, fill my boat
with pots of pigments, a sturdy easel that can travel
plein air in the light of the igneous
to my favorite vista: tectonic plate subducts
the continental shelf, dragging sea, mountains,
deserts, melting into the mantle. Vincent,
how to capture the blaze in your face—cochineal? The radiance
of your hair. The Mummy Brown in your ear. Tomorrow we hunt

that urgent yellow,
saffron, India, camel urine,
and wake sunflowers!

Rauschenberg Downtown

Lives in an eye, rhymes the Rape of Europa
with B&W pic of bullfight in Juarez,
walks a petrified dog from Pompeii
along the map of Greece, loves
aroma of turpentine and solvent.

If the gods cared, they’d help me with my golf game, he muses, making sacrifices with controlled burns, breathing in smoke from the corner grill. Epicurious and fond of quoting Aquinas, quotidian transactions, moving household gods.

There is no poor subject, he to Dante,
distracted by circles of cacophony, mal-
odorous whiff of pilgrim’s terror.

A pillow in the window, Ganymede’s cleft; pneumatic drill percusses a cataract racket, crossing traffic circle VII. Woman with yellow—steal that purse! “Get out of my ditch,” the hardhat, jack-hammering the sidewalk. He stumbles. Stops. Drops coins in a cup. Tongue twists to lick the nose. His guide grabs an arm, “Take my hand,” and pulls him into the car, Circle Line. Next stop Malebolge.

➥ Bio