The Liver is the Cock’s Comb (1944)
after the painting by Arshile Gorky
With feathers, a rage lacks seriousness.
More of a dance, a veering into symbol
and ritual. The colors of earth–
ocher, sienna, snow lapsing into mud–
seem traversed, as if by deity
and light, with unbraided rainbows,
assaults of beauty. All this renders
the anger and lust comical, or buries
the voltage into labyrinth and luxury.
Flesh: bugles life and grave,
union and betrayal. Surely we are
cooped up in it–sweat and bleed and ache
its venerables. It offers the riotous
threshold of paradise from which all rewards
are cast. And then it flutters off,
ruffled and crowing, a thrust signed with dust,
and needy still mounts and crows again.
All in a moment that began
in first passion and ended
in cornea’s foggy mirrors
at the home where moans
and the smells of failure gather.
Ricardo Pau-Llosa was born into a working-class family in Havana. He is the author of the poetry collections Sorting Metaphors (1983), winner of the first national Anhinga Prize; Bread of the Imagined (1992); Cuba (1993), nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; Mastery Impulse (2003); and Parable Hunter (2008). His eighth book of poems, The Turning, was published in 2018 by the Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series. Recent and forthcoming publications include American Journal of Poetry, American Literary Review, Stand, Ambit, Prism, The Common, Arion, december, Blackbird, Burnside Review, and others.