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Yerra Sugarman


  • Politics March 22, 2001

    Hymn

    Sounds that twisted
    around the room like smoke,
    bludgeoning, blossoming,
    where I did not want
    to find them, but I find them
    over and over. Father,
    bless your hair.
    Bless your hammer
    and your no-song whistle,
    your voice, your strange
    language--embarrassing to me
    once. Too lyrical, too vulgar.
    But father, bless your hair:
    sculptural, short, black
    lamb's wool, steel wool
    like your voice--gravel
    underfoot when I'd walk
    home from school. Bless
    your voice, the gravel
    underfoot, your hammer,
    your strange language twisting
    like smoke, biting like a snake
    the head of which I wanted
    to stroke or crush with my heel.
    And your whistle father,
    and when you'd stop
    whistling, suddenly,
    in the middle of your work,
    as if something had cut
    away the part of you
    that wanted to sing.

    Yerra Sugarman

  • Politics February 1, 2001

    The Osservanza Master

    In later paintings--
    a Brueghel, a Dali--
    a hill could also be a breast
    grazed by clouds, the breast
    of a woman lying on her back

    facing heaven. But in this painting
    by the Osservanza Master
    (about whom nothing is known,
    not even his real name)
    the hill is just a hill

    beneath an arch of cirrus,
    although it swirls like cream
    to a soft peak, although it hides
    a distant church blushing in the dusk.
    I love this painting,

    no larger than a leaf
    of notebook paper.
    Its sharp thin brushstrokes
    shiny as currycombed hair
    drinking track-light.

    And I love the story it tells:
    Saint Anthony Abbot tempted
    by a heap of gold. Stranger than any
    hill transformed into a breast
    is that the pile of gold has vanished!

    Yet the Saint is still
    so distinct you could lift him
    off the panel. His hands cupped
    like a calyx holding its flower
    he gazes downward

    at the damaged place
    where the gold has been,
    where now a small pink ghost lingers
    like a kiss on the hillside.
    But it's hard to know if he's still

    surprised by the temptation
    he'd once found at his feet,
    or by the rabbit crouching there, forever
    bearing a tree rooted in air.
    Or is he simply amazed

    that what he never had was taken away

    Yerra Sugarman