Three Poems + Paintings

by Scott Poole



“For George Floyd, June 2020”

18x24”, acrylic on canvas


Thoughts Behind a Mask


Wearing a mask,

thinking about George Floyd’s

‘I can’t breathe,’

thinking about Jefferson mouthing

‘inalienable rights’ as he

pressed them into parchment,

thinking of a knee on my neck,

what my lasting words would be.


Thinking about the stale air

in this house composed

of heated words that can’t escape.

Thinking about making a mask

out of a voting ballot,

how the strings would attach.


Watching a police station turn

to another system of smoke,

thinking people might catch

their paper masks on fire,

as they run past raging buildings

covered in George’s final words.


Thinking about different declarations,

how the one of our independence

is not a declaration at all.

It’s an engine on fire—

the rich owners flee from taxation

while we live free to run after,

out of breath, forever

pursuing their happiness.


Artist's Statement:

As someone who matches poems with paintings, sometimes the poem inspires the painting, sometimes vice versa. In this case, the pandemic and George Floyd’s murder, inspired both art pieces. Later, I paired them. The poem speaks to the confinement and isolation of the time. The painting takes a different perspective and celebrates the resulting breakout and protest for equal rights under the law. In this case, the two art forms are different sides of the same 2020 coin.

 



“Point Above the Trees”

36x 24”, oil and acrylic on canvas


Point Above the Trees


I know it’s there

at a point just above the trees.


The clouds hang in the branches today

heavy with bee bass honey,


steamed and gray blind.

The world blocks me.


I know there is a point

the white planes stretch to reach.


What the hell is up there

that’s so damn important?


Can’t I have just one slice

of yellow from the blue pie?


Hello up there, we’re

all standing around in the park


like birds on down time

repairing each other’s wings.


Artist's Statement:

This painting began as an abstract and revealed itself as a surreal scene as I tried to bring it into some harmony. The cloud trees are my favorite part. I like the idea of seeing a mythical place where clouds grow. In the end, the painting has the feeling of an airport in a park. I love this painting if for no other reason, it marries parks and airports—two places of waiting. The poem was written after the painting was done.

 



“Strolling Through the Museum”

12x9", oil on canvas


Strolling Through the Museum


I came upon

an alabaster statue

of a gorgeous woman

half sticking out of

a wall.


She was so beautiful

I began falling in love

with just half of her.


I wanted to see

if there was more.

There was an old, vacant

optometrist shop next door

with dusty models of eyeballs

in the window case.


Later that night,

I busted through the window,

climbed through some trash

and found a small locked room.

I busted down the door

and there was the other half of her,

but alive, flesh and blood,

half sucked in the wall.


I’ve come to save you!

Oh perfect, she said. A man

come to save me.


Then with a whoosh she

was sucked through the wall.


I heard a muffled crash,

next door and something

shattering on the floor.


I really don’t

understand museums.


Artist's Statement:

The poem inspired this painting. This is rare for me, usually the painting comes first. The statue in the painting took hours of careful detail work to do. The male museum visitor took less than an hour to paint. In many places, the underlying color of the panel is coming through his face. In the poem, it’s the man who survives. But in the painting, it’s the man who is most ephemeral. Both poem and painting ask: Is it a statue of a woman we see in the museum or just a relic of an ancient male gaze?

 

Scott Poole is a poet and painter. He is the author of six books of poetry. Two of them are chapbooks combining 20 poems and 20 paintings. Scott is best known for his 11-year stint as house poet on Public Radio International's Live Wire! radio variety show. He lives in Vancouver, WA where he exhibits his paintings. You can find out more about his work at scottpoole.com.