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Stephen Ratcliffe





yellow of scotch broom branch slanting across green plane

of ridge, blue jay perched on tobacco plant branch in left

corner, streaked sparrow on table below it  

                                                                   color theorist

noticing “red-orange appears red or yellow-orange,” magenta

and cyan will cause “cleavage of yellow into red and green”   


de Kooning claiming “everything that passes me I can only

see a little of, but I am always looking,” adding “and I

can see an awful lot sometimes”  

                                                   parallel lines of low

thin white clouds in pale blue sky above right-sloping

shoulder of ridge, whiteness of gull passing overhead







shadow slanting across tree-lined canyon of green ridge,

finch pecking up seeds from table on right, sunlit silver

jet passing across cloudless pale blue sky overhead  


in red shirt seeing how small the world is when you get down

to particulars, noting “I’m afraid of talking to most people”  


woman in black claiming people who see The Birth of a Nation

don’t know actors are in black face, adding “I’m a novelist,

like leaving space for the reader to fill in”  

                                                               white wall  

of wave breaking across blue plane in the left foreground,

sandstone-colored cliff against blue-white sky behind it







orange circle of sun rising below upturned curve of pine

branch, plane of fog on top of ridge, jet trail slanting

across cloudless blue sky overhead  

                                                        Barnett Newman claiming

Mondrian’s way of drawing illustrates a scientific attitude,

how life “moves in relation to a vertical”  


girl noting the air around the fruit in Cézanne’s still

life, how the curve of the pear appears to be leaking,

surface of table tilting toward the left  

                                                         pale blue      

sky reflected in blue-green plane, rainbow in curve

of white spray above wave breaking into foreground







pink-white line of light below grey plane of fog in right

corner, golden-crowned sparrow pecking up seeds from table

in foreground below it, green slope of ridge across from it  


Hoffmann thinking width of a line presents idea of infinity,

mood of a landscape results from relation of certain things  


man in grey truck recalling corrugated metal shed in Topeka

Springs, Death Valley, “Paradise” on the wall above “Closed

Please Call Again” in the lower left corner  

                                                                  white spray

above blue-green shoulder of the wave breaking in right

foreground, whiteness of gull gliding across above it







grey light coming into the sky above still dark pine branch

in right foreground, sound of drops falling from tobacco

plant leaves below it, invisible jet passing overhead  


woman on beach seeing freighters making their way to China,

“reds-and-blacks at odds with airscape of motion and light”


Merleau-Ponty wanting a direct description of experience,

noting how “all problems amount to finding definitions

of essences, the essence of perception” for instance


shadowed grey wall of swell moving across grey plane

on right, wingspan of a gull gliding across above it







grey plane of clouds moving above still dark ridge in window

opposite unmade yellow and blue bed, pink line below grey

in window above it, waves breaking in channel  


admitting “I have confined my investigations to the material

world,” Baskerville running from hound for fear of his life  


man on radio noting Winslow Homer fished with scarlet ibis,

studies of rods and cones showing red is most vivid color

for fish, scraped tapered line into paintings with a pin  


grey cloud lowering across circular green pine on point,

drops falling into grey-green plane in left foreground







fox sparrow perched on angle of shadowed tobacco plant

branch in lower right foreground, green leaves above it,

sound of a jet passing overhead  

                                                  man on phone recalling

going downstairs a little after midnight, finding his wife

on the kitchen floor “face down and shaking”  

                                                                      woman on left

claiming that Mary Lamb murdered her mother at the age of 32, stabbed in
heart with kitchen knife, put in mental hospital

rather than prison because she had no remorse  


opening below grey plane of clouds in upper right corner,

gull perched on triangular orange tip of the GROIN sign







diagonal line of jet trail slanting across blue-white sky

above ridge, finch landing on rose branch next to feeder,

sound of waves breaking in the channel  

                                                              woman on phone

recalling thinking television waves make you infertile,

“what nine year old girl thinks about future parenthood”  


Derrida believing “there’s a future which is predictable,”

noting that Heidegger and Hegel erase their private lives

from their work, “speech is what’s taking place right here”


triangular grey cloud in front of darker green of the ridge,

white wall moving in across grey-whiteness of plane below it







thin grey line of fog on top of black forest green ridge,

horizontal patch of blue opening in grey-white cloud above

it, finch on right perch of feeder in lower right foreground


man at microphone standing to the left of curved granite rock wall,
wondering “how many people want to buy gouache on rust”


critic claiming that Orwell’s 1984 sold 1,370 copies a day

in 1973, Leslie Stephen noting Defoe’s “clear recitation

of the facts”  

                     triangle of sunlight flickering across

grey plane of swell in left foreground, circle of sun

next to curve of grey-white cloud in corner above it







light green planes of nasturtium leaves above green passion

vine-covered fence, dried hemlock stalk slanting across

ridge above it, streaks of grey-white cloud overhead  


on left thinking of using the endless line to create images,

noting that “color is a way of keeping shapes apart”  


in black leather jacket noticing flecks of aluminum in right

foreground, pattern of concentric lines in rectangular plane

on right, yellow square in the center to the left of red one


upturned curve of waning white quarter moon in pale blue sky

in left corner, circular green pine on tip of point below it







Stephen Ratcliffe’s books of poetry include Portraits & Repetition (The Post-Apollo Press) and SOUND/(system) (Green Integer). REAL is forthcoming from Avenue B this fall. Listening to Reading, a collection of essays on contemporary “experimental” poetry, was published by SUNY Press. He lives in Bolinas, California, and
teaches at Mills College in Oakland.


Copyright ©2006 by Stephen Ratcliffe.