3 poems by Matthew Woodman

The Burning Man

(after Rufino Tamayo’s El quemado, 1955)

Can one spark spontaneous combustion,
or are our lives a bespoke destiny?
Who witnesses our self-immolation?

The graft hand of uniformed corruption
ignited Mohamed Bouazizi.
How did his spark lead to such combustion

to make others risk asphyxiation
and the spittle tattoo of refugee?
Who witnesses their self-immolation?

Just as Thích Quảng Đức and Charles Moore had wrung
their future from twin jugs of gasoline,
could one conscious spark refine combustion

as a generative intersection
of beating eye and protest elegy:
Who witnesses my self-immolation?

Why are we here if not to raise a sun
communal in spirit or effigy?
You could matter, spark such a combustion.
Who witnesses your self-immolation?

Arrangement of Objects

(after Rufino Tamayo’s Arreglo de objetos, 1928)

How many lives have I
    how many canvasses
to stretch and prime with rabbit
    how many more starts

how many more patterns
    more accumulations
of chance of design
    I have held
what would become
    I have spun
and rhymed rungs
    I have traced

I have peeled appearances
sharpened to a fine point

I have felt to be true
the end of the day
    what remains

of what
     I have arranged
          the doors

are closing
    fragments scatter
    all my figments ungathered

Mandolins and Pineapples

(after Rufino Tamayo’s Mandolinas y piñas, 1930)

Open in case of convergency
invisible strings connect strum

they have strung or been that’s
not important the key to pluck

the chord an open composition
the revelation sensory and not

really there your mind a storm electric
impulses connecting and casting out

into the void mandolins and pineapples
bells to coalesce perennials

to be sung down let go we need
space breath to stretch our fields

our sensitive tissues lipstick
and mascara all forever gold

and fugitive red may I have
this dance is all there is


Matthew Woodman teaches writing at California State University, Bakersfield and is the founding editor of Rabid Oak. His poems appear in recent issues of Sonora Review, Oxidant/EngineSierra Nevada ReviewThe California Journal of Poetics, and Placeholder, and more of his work can be found at www.matthewwoodman.com.

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