You cannot find his pain inside immaculate lines.
You cannot find the sleepless hours spent alone.
His brush moving non-stop till his fingers blistered;
a pause to double over in dry heaves; when done,
begin again, breath hitching; snot and tears
as unyielding stripes forced order on the primal;
sketched first on the page, each new cage designed
to perfect the prime balance.
But never perfected enough.
By the end, too much hung inside the scales for
his thoughts to ever rest or his hands to ever pause
as the sickness slowly thickened in his lungs.
When did he first discover this gift for equilibrium?
An urgent revelation in a haystack-mounded field?
Wind-swept grass arrayed behind his eyes in
primary bands of power? Lines like those that in
the next decade boys who lied about their age
would dig in mortar-scarred earth, premature men
doomed to spill their lives in mud.
As war raged,
he fought to smooth and contain; believing still
that harmony could be truth and truth harmony:
general beauty with utmost awareness. Abstraction
his new alchemy, a quest to reveal the bones
of the sublime, skeleton of black borders and
color fields; but the formulae eluded him;
ebony dulled to gray, lines retreated from the fronts,
forms refused the restrictions he imposed.
The war ended on its own, the shape he sought
But the urgency, the need, never
abated, never relaxed its guard. He polished and
polished in Paris until the columns and ranks
held their place and refused to back away from
the boundaries. Endless variations inside diamonds
and squares: were they all pieces of larger patterns,
fragments of a design only his head could hold
in whole, these thaumaturgies schemed in paint?
Step up close and learn the fury of plain and plane.
Images that fool the eye into mistaking white space
for emptiness; but the brush strokes, running
in so many deliberate directions, explosive
kinetics craftily restrained within the bars,
energies controlled and composed, regimented
shards of the Great Order he strove to make
real in every line, but not in time; not in time.
Germany spilled out beyond its designated
shape and forged new emptiness from order,
drew vectors that would tear through fragile forms and
make colors bleed.
Fugitive in New York:
each new painting a terrible labor, but his
efforts in between just as panicked; the panels
he hung on the studio walls, a set of eight
that he moved and moved and moved, and
constantly rearranged the colored squares
tacked within, searching for that balance,
that optimum interlace of energy. As the world
tilted further and further, he fought to tip it back.
One slender man in a draft-plagued room, battling
to flatten the violence, the vileness, even
as the effort turned to poison. Slowly dying, still
he arranged his squares until something resonated
in the very air, something he could feel
with his palms and call beauty, call pure.
Then, he would paint and paint until he wept.
The last, unfinished work: black lines replaced
with marching color, every simple square a shout
of joy. Had something shown him, even then,
the war's end he would never live to see?