“SCRAPING CLEAN THE PALETTE”

He painted squares of color,
layered one over the next and again—
famously on large, oversized canvases.
He rejected the labels applied to him—
of abstract expressionist.
Asked about meaning and purpose,
he told the critics and collectors
that silence is so accurate—
and he felt that their asking him
questions— missed his point.
Following an aneurism,
he was instructed not to paint anything
larger than a yard. So, he reduced himself in
scale
and worked tiny acrylics on paper.
A couple years later, when he was sixty six,
on a cruel clear cold Wednesday in February,
he sliced the artery of his right arm open
with a razor blade and bled out red
on the linoleum kitchen floor in his studio.
The blood is said to have spread,
about six feet wide by eight feet high;
A good size for a painting
and the largest he’d done in a while.
That same day, the Seagram Murals
arrived at the Tate in London.
They were a series of large reds and browns,
discontinued after he’d learned
that they were to hang in a restaurant.
He’d hoped that they would
“ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch
who ever eats in that room.”
He left behind no note,
but a daughter named Kate,
a son named Christopher,
and a slew of cheeky art fiend ass holes
who attended his funeral
but not his wife Mel’s,
when she dropped dead
six months after he.
Later, there would be lawsuits,
record breaking auctions,
and his name in every textbook of art history;
Almost always under the chapter
on Abstract Expressionism.

I saw his work in person as a teenager
and the way he painted red on yellow
made me fight back tears
and try it myself.
All these years later,
I'm still only trying
where he succeeded.

narrative poem written on 03-19-2011 by: on mattkane.com
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