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Tell My Heart

            Pictures come to my mind; I think my pictures out with
            my brain and then I tell my heart to go ahead.
                                         —Horace H. Pippin

His reds always clamored—mortars bursting, a plane afire,
a gunner's barrage, gladioli, gunshots, or Golgotha's
blood rain. He made no distinctions. His roses were fists.

His roses beat obdurate fists against the eye. The stunned
eye faltered, unable to distinguish: lonely—lovely,
both flames, both red, both proof of wounding. With a heated
poker, he seared winter into the grain of a table leaf.

Lonely was a winter storm, lovely was the heated poker.
With one hand cradled in the other, his left hand levered
the right. The right hand ferried the poker, held the brush.

The brush raised its slurry of reds, its cadmium pyres
and zealot's blood. It stuttered against the canvas, plied
its impasto of lonely—no lovely—and lay the pictures
that swayed his wary heart: Go ahead, now. Go ahead.

Go ahead. Watch closely: A wounded vet, Negro doughboy,
coddles a hog-bristle brush dipped in leftover house paint,
limns, in scalded red, a fox running beneath a pelt of sky.

Beneath a pelt of darkness, loneliness snaps its jaw, breaks
bone and useless wing, and wrenches the neck that swings
the unheard tolling of its bell. The thief flees, leaving
only a squander of blood to scald the wasting snow.

Janice N. Harrington

Primitive: The Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin
BOA Editions

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