Size / / /

Color provokes a psychic vibration.

Color hides a power still unknown

but real, which acts on every part

of the human body.

The spiral circumscribes a center, but no limits.

Nothing held there and

nothing there that desired to be held.

The populace falls up,

shedding confinements of skin and shadow,

riding the inverse surge of gravity

as light and line.

To yearn for flight

is to fall into forever,

every landing a new abyss.

Before his century arrived

he abandoned numbers for art,

abandoned a wife for a mistress,

abandoned a mistress for a wife,

till he at last found a companion

who could withstand deepest space.

The more frightening the world becomes

the more art becomes abstract.

He refused the most sure sanctuary,

hands extended, again and again,

promising escape to America.

He brushed them all away,

not trusting the beautiful void

to seek him out once more if he fled.

A human telescope aimed

at an angle no other could perceive,

focus adjusting over decades,

foregrounded first in the fey realms,

noting the tiny stars that crawled

through river flows

and couples in love.

Yet these lights shone from nowhere close.

The vast distance apparent

as he bent his lens.

His gaze rose through the shapes

behind the world,

the aggressive disputes

between entities without boundaries,

fields of mud and blood and blue

warring on the skins

of creatures without faces

seen in perilous closeup.

For so many years

those hostile clouds blocked his view.

Yet he had to strain further,

never dared stray too far

from his vantage—even

when the Bolsheviks took his home,

when the Nazis shut his school,

he only ran as far as Paris

and stayed put when the Nazis joined him.

The calming void

came to him each time he closed his eyes.

Those stars were letters swimming at creation's edge,

glyphs larger than galaxies,

moving over and under and around one another,

an endless ever-changing text,

new epics written with each shift in space.

He strove to read them,

captured in frustration on his canvas

mere words, snatches of calligraphy,

fragments of a cosmic alphabet.

When his own colors began to fade,

huddled by the wood stove,

hands afire with a vision of two great towers,

posts for a gateway to emptiness policed by ghosts,

he recognized he might, before his soul

broadcast out into the dark,

transcribe a single sentence.

It would have to be enough.

Perhaps the letters aren't in proper order.

Perhaps no one born since

could piece the map together,

place galaxies true in their quadrants,

connect the constellations.

But walk the ascending spiral.

Storms of shape and hue rain tremors

somewhere parsecs deep behind your eyes,

yet still electric, urgent,

spurring you to climb,

to slice through the harness of gravity

and fall into the codex written

at the boundary of time.

Color is the key. The eye is the hammer.

The soul is the piano with its many chords.

The artist is the hand that sets

the soul to vibrating.




Mike Allen is president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and editor of the speculative poetry journal Mythic Delirium. With Roger Dutcher, Mike is also editor of The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, which for the first time collects the Rhysling Award-winning poems from 1978 to 2004 in one volume. His newest poetry collection, Disturbing Muses, is out from Prime Books, with a second collection, Strange Wisdoms of the Dead, soon to follow. Mike's poems can also be found in Nebula Awards Showcase 2005, both editions of The 2005 Rhysling Anthology, and the Strange Horizons archives.
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