Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Innocence of Trees (Poem)

The Innocence of Trees

I happened to be thinking of the innocence of trees
      and then a grid came into my mind. . . .
         ~ Agnes Martin

The hand laid down
proves what the eye fools:

there are no straight lines
in nature. Step nearer

and you can see how
every graphite welt

strains at its boundaries,
meanders its delicate hold

till it jumps off the grid
into the space we cannot

navigate. Go closer in,
then imagine what we must

screen from view, why
absence insinuates itself

even in the feint of being
invisible. Wide bands across

our field of vision confine
nothing more empty, layer in

the weave of the canvas
the bare scaffold in pencil,

axes but a veiled alignment
of vertical with landscape.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

Last week, my friend Deborah Barlow reposted her commentary about the painter Agnes Martin (1912-2004) and Martin's quote that serves as the inspiration for my poem. Deborah's post includes an image of Martin's The Tree. (Audio post on The Tree at MoMA.) 

I've spent quite a bit of time sitting with Martin's work at Dia:Beacon. (Dia:Beacon's exhibitions of Martin's work are listed here.) Like Mark Rothko, she merits all the time and attention you can give her. Her writings do, too.

"Agnes Martin: Before the Grid" is on view through June 17 at The Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, New Mexico. The museum has an Agnes Martin Gallery

This month, the theme at Every Day Poems, the five-day-a-week poetry newsletter from T.S. Poetry Press, is "trees".


Hannah Stephenson said...

I totally agree with you about Agnes Martin....something hypnotic about her work (and Rothko, too, who I thought of immediately!).

I enjoyed this poem.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Beautiful commentary on trees. I love the "there are no straight lines in nature" and wonder why we work so hard to make them straight.

Louise Gallagher said...

This poem made my heart sigh with relief, joy, knowing.

to experience such beauty in your words is a gift.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Maureen, lush, deep and a gorgeous thing. Thank you for pulling this into existence.

Kelly said...

Stunning poem - love Martin's work; you've captured the purity of her work perfectly. Lovely.

signed...bkm said...

A beautiful piece of work that reflects the gentle and magnificent peace of trees...bkm

Maureen said...

I'm so pleased this poem found its mark. Thank you all for such lovely comments. Martin's paintings continue to keep a hold on me.

Kathleen said...

I'm fascinated by this grid idea--hers and yours!

Claudia said...

fascinating...esp. loved..
til it jumps off the grid
into the space we cannot

Brian Miller said...

a really cool piece...the no stright lines in nature stuck out to me...so gentle truth of trees in this...smiles...

Anonymous said...

'no straight lines...' says so much. very good piece.

S. Etole said...

always enjoy your writing ...

Kathleen Overby said...

Feint. I like how you used it, we don't hear it much any more.

Unknown said...

Excellent read. Many exceptional lines, both in the way the words work together, in the natural rhythm they make together and of course in their reflective qualities. Really enjoyed. thanks

Rob Mustard said...

This poem touches on an ancient theme, and gets to the heart of the way we insinuate ourselves upon the world. Rothko, one of my very favorite painters, seems more at one with nature than any of his contemporaries. Your poem seems to tap into a part of his deep mystery.

Anonymous said...

Although it is not a commentary on writing, the lines on ...how every graphite welt strains.... Rang true with how thought attaches itself to language.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

'Go closer in,
then imagine what we must

screen from view, why
absence insinuates itself

even in the feint of being

How true (and lovely words ecpressed).

Anna :o]