057.1: Molly Brodak:: Scenes of Monastic Life & Detail & Lock the Theater 057

A series of ekphrastic poems by Molly Brodak that diverge from the paintings of Paolo Uccello inaugurates this week's special issue on Word & Image. When describing her approach to these ekphrastic poems, Brodak discussed pursuing an approach of "circuitry through parallel aesthetics" rather than an approach of description or praise. The result of this approach creates a different type of poem, one that is of its own nature rather than secondary to the painting. These poems attempt to recreate the moment of encounter with the painting, and in recreating this moment make a tangible thing: the poem. Brodak's second poem begins: "A painting is whether you can finish it." This statement is the crux of Brodak's approach, where the you refers as much to the viewer of the painting as to the painter. This statement is meant literally: what makes a work of art a work of art is the continuation of the question of whether the work of art continues or ends. Brodak's poems serve to continue the question, ultimately reckoning: "There is no answer / a hundred leaves stand in for a million, in suspense, / in ferocious grids, begun long before you looked." Andrew Wessels

Scenes of Monastic Life

Under the plaster, sharp planes of sides, slim portals, fields
shift still, as if thinking too hard about their color:

paleness and subsequently long inscriptions below.
A space distorts space. Cyan walls recede into gestures,

unconscious gorges, painted in colors he knew people hated.
Like cadet blue, Camaro yellow, so on, which is to say he had Ethics;

he had one intelligible hand and one injured hand.
In one language and out the other. He left some hands around.
One was used years later to redraw a head on a monk. Waiting,

robed in smoke, a few people will stand in for hundreds.
There’s no other way. Which is fine.

So he painted in his abandoning of the painting. In vague, straight orange,
there is only background, this earth, his mind, even everyone: background.
There is simply not enough of me to say it right. Unfinished,

a god flies towards the wall. An image is a refusal of all else.
Even its inscription: orando e lavorando through prayer and work
pe(r)fetamente l’a(c)cidia it is possible
to overcome sloth


A painting is whether you can finish it.
Any ribcage has the same story:
keep looking—

Meaning, the celery-green sea is beyond what’s necessary
and the off-castle is the utterance of repeating mountains.
An ox and a mule kneel flatly, with resentment.

Faith feels like acid until you are all gone.
So the white ships come close enough.
The sky is absent.

There is no answer:
a hundred leaves stand in for a million, in suspense,
in ferocious grids, begun long before you looked.

Lock the Theater

—because the plagued folk
might just rush the stage, for the clean world.

Panic being the opposite of language, on which
the animal floats in a man, astonished by its own extravagance.

There, one man seems fine:
the awful one, over-draped, gesturing to a space past

the Ark, dissolving as a thin wind lifts under the color,
where a crow eats right out in the open.

There are hands on his ankles.
Propping or pulling.