Per Contra

Summer 2007


Plain Text Version - Poetry

Ekphrastic Poetry by Donald Kuspit


Albrecht Durerís Master Engravings,

Melencolia 1, 1514



         the star is your fall

from talismanic


of grace.

             ill at ease

in heaven,


to earth,

            you impale

yourself on tools

                          of thought

and puzzles.


                  wings of art

do not sustain


your mind


with perspective,

                          no free


             of feeling.

only the folds

                     and feathers

of your flesh

                    are a freely

sensed form,

                     and they are muffled

by the geometry

                         of meaning.



the beyond


like a bat

              in the cave

of your




an inner way

                   through time.



Knight, Death and Devil, 1513


That simple animal,

                               the devil,

has become too grotesque

                                          to unmask.

death has the wit

                          of the foreknown.

these fellow travelers

                                  are mother and father,

no longer


the dog,


from reality,


to keep up

                 with the fantasy.

the shadows

                    are full

of slow smiles,

                       the castle

of consciousness

                           is abandoned.

haunted by death

                           and the devil,

rebirth is impossible,



              but there are still

stoic ecstasies,

                      and the strength

of the self

                that recognizes failure.



St. Jerome In His Study, 1514


you turned to scholarship

                                        when the poetry

of your god

                   became prose.

when the angels

                          were no longer animals,

it was the only orphic song

                                           they understood.


when you plucked

                             the phallic thorn

from the lionís paw,

                                the poetry

retreated to the invisible


beyond the light.


                          your senses

completely stilled

                            by the stupor

of introspection,

                         your self-struggle


          by the words

that run

            through the hourglass


                  still, the sin

of intellectual pride

                               restores you

to life

         of sorts,

ornamental life

                        of a symbol.


        but for the grace

of the devil

                  go i.



Leonardo Da Vinciís

Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini, 1503




a wave before

                      it crashes,

your smile

                 suspends itself,

making it all

                    the more effective

in the unconscious.

                              your disinterestedness

makes it

              all the more momentous.


naÔve and

                omniscient, maternal

and unripe,

                 carefree and

caring, it embodies

                              all the archness

of the dialecticís

                        false wisdom.


unforgettable but

                           forbidden feelings

stir in the sfumato

                            behind you.

prehistoric peaks

                          give anxious shape

to desire,

             an open secret,

but you never knew

                               yourself  well enough

to tell it.

            you continue to vegetate

in your smile,

                     waiting for the kiss

of the right word

                           to release

you from its spell.

                            until then,

its grace

             is the only bulwark

against the death

                 that roots

in the landscape,

                          the apocalypse

dressed up

                in its dreaminess.





last fruit

              of girlhood,

your smile

                 is offered up

for the male god

                         of art

to gorge on.

                  his eye,

a predatory



             with its medusa promise

of immortality,

                     drains the joy

from your freshness

                                to make a picture

of the mind

                   he will never allow you.

your smile

                is as profane

as any material

                       out of which art makes

itself sacred.

                   yet your simplicity

is too sublime

                      to master;

the god fumes

                      in the rage of the inconceivable


                envious of your abiding


               which does without him.


             at the crossroads

of the unconscious

                              the smile embodies,

i plant the kiss he could

                                      not bring himself

to spare from his art,

                                finding in the erotic

richness of your drapery

                                     all the poetry i need,

cryptic understanding

                                  as well as

blinding insight,

                        and nerve.


Originally Published: Apocalypse with Jewels in the Distance, New York: Bel Esprit Press, l999.





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