Size / / /

          Aphrodite is exacting a tribute of me for all my race.

               —Ovid, Heroides

1. une femme

There is no abstract art.

You must always start

with something. Afterwards

you can remove all traces of reality.

By the time of their meeting, he

was indeed a Master.

Removing her reality

took no more effort

than sketching a face on air.

The Minotaur's passion sated,

he left her a twisted, flattened shell,

curled like wet canvas on his padded chair,

mouth soundlessly screaming

from the same side of her face

that both eyes now started from.

He sighed in satisfaction,

then began the erasure.

Soon, no one there.

As with many before her.

He had not learned her name,

and did not care.

2. son visage bleu

Casagemas's head protruded

from the sheet that wrapped his

body; eyelids swollen,

temple stained black with

gunpowder, skin blue and

waxen in the candlelight.

Pablo watched them bear away

his best friend from Barcelona,

slain by a woman's refusal

as surely as she'd tugged his

fingers on the pistol with

puppet strings. Pablo knew

then: all women are witches.

Only an equal sorcerer

can survive them.

When the scarlet fever delirium

claimed him from Madrid,

he had lain in a down-stuffed bed

in a Catalonian mountain villa,

staring through a narrow window

at the verdant slopes; things seen

in that haze, shapes cavorting

in midair, opening doors

that weren't there, opening

space to show him views

from all angles at once.

Memories gnawed at the back

of his grieving brain: how to

find again that visionary state,

force it to obey his desires?

Until he found the first hints,

Casagemas's blue face swelled

behind every new encounter.

3. l'Arlequin

Some claim he infused those

thousands of canvasses with

hidden arcana, invocations

au culte mithraïque, tributes

to the god who slew

the celestial bull; had he heard,

Pablo would have laughed,

and rightly so, for the only alchemy

fused into his creations

was a magic he alone invented.

Against the skin of Fernande,

his first mistress, and first woman

he would claim to truly love,

the rapture of seeing outside

space returned, this time

to a clear, unfevered mind,

and he knew he could be

the new Harlequin, protégé

of trickster Hermes, author

of any wizardry his lusts demanded.

He painted himself,

handsome, sullen, clad in

diamonds of rose and black,

wearing Harlequin's peaked hat,

the nature of his magic

as yet unsculpted. He filled

the following years with a quest

for final configurations,

sharpened the vision that saw

from all sides at once, allowing

him to shape others to his whim.

And at last he shed

the Harlequin's chequered skin;

pierced and thrown away

with the toss of a horn

as he assumed the form

(distilled from the arenas

of Spain) that suited him best.

4. Minotauromachia

Do all women harbor a need

for annihilation? Most would deny it

but if one did yearn, he would find her,

smell her an auction hall away,

taste her scent amid hundreds

in the newly opened gallery,

home in on her through

crowded streets; the Minotaur

weaving toward its meal.

As helpless as Europa draped

across the bull, she would come

to where he led, brook no struggle

as the Beast compressed,

flattened, conformed her

to its all-consuming vision.

Why not the genitals

in place of the eyes,

and the eyes between the legs?

Even those whom he allowed

names, whom he spared

the Bull's machinations:

what of them? One hanged,

two driven insane, one shooting

herself (just as Casagemas);

others that survived live on

only in the story he painted.

5. son seul amour vrai

How to reconcile the cocky hero

whose heart tore at the thought

of a Basque village bombed,

who painted a protest of

war's horrors, pressed postcards

of that protest into the hands

of Nazi soldiers, and yet

was never arrested; could the same

man be the Beast who tore

scores of women into surreal

contortions, and casually disposed

of the remains? Could one

divide himself so completely

into parallel planes?

Though he once imagined it so,

no avenging angel with hawk beak

and barrel chest ever descended

to stuff the Minotaur back

in his Harlequin cloak, bear

the wailing creature away.

Though he uttered the word

too many times to count,

only one woman truly earned

his adoration. As he lounged

in the Chateau Vauvenargue,

he recognized her form,

sensuous curves out of his

deepest dreams, drawing into

focus. He readied himself

for the one mistress

that remained to conquer

or at last be bested by,

knowing he loved her truly,

knowing she loved him even more.

I think of Death all the time.

She is the only woman

who never leaves me.

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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26 Sep 2022

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