In the Rain, 1912

Franz Marc

Box Men

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I dreamed that there were nine black dots which,
three by three, arranged a square. “Put pen to one,”
a voice called out, “link each to each with four straight
lines, and never lift your hand.”

……………….—The Journals of Count Edmond de Grisy

…..for Joseph Cornell
Discretely gathered objects fill a box
in this ascetic world. No epic sprawls,
no Guernica, no sheets and slabs of paint
with messages of passion, love or hate.
Stuffed parrots, wooden balls, an antique spoon,
beads, gems, dolls, rings, an eyeball on a shelf.
Pasted paper etchings, pentagrams.
Coins, goblets, corks in bottles blue as sky,
penny arcade toys, a butterfly.
A woman in a frame within a frame
stares out at you, the visitor. Voices fall.
Shadow boxes fill a shadowed room
and, each by each, invest a paradox.
To think outside the box, become the box.

…..for Kobo Abé
To think outside the box, prepare a box.
Find one of heavy, corrugated board,
three feet square, perhaps, and four feet deep
(a standard size lends anonymity.)
Obtain a knife, some vinyl for the window—
duct tape makes the waterproofing simple—
use padding on your head to ease the load,
and hang your things inside on wire hooks—
a cup, a flashlight, thermos, extra clothes.
Practice first at home, and then take walks,
and notice how you vanish in a crowd.
They pass you by, you are unseeable,
and soon you’ll have no need for doors or locks:
a Box Man quickly can become the box.

…..for Sam Walton
A Box Man quickly can erect a box
once permits are obtained, the town convinced,
the access roads and services in place.
High walls, good light, an open indoor space:
the trick is not in how you build the things—
by now the crews construct them in their sleep,
slap on a row of jumbo shipping docks,
and move in goods and shelves within a week—
but how you visualize and run your business,
what you do with wages, costs and prices,
that lets the buying public see you are
far better, on the whole, than ma and pa;
until there’s nothing left but parking lots,
and empty streets and stores outside the box.

…..for Muhammad Ali
No empty seats are scored outside the box
of ring ropes, canvas square and brilliant kliegs
that form a cube of light and heat and sweat
and smoke, and after-shave and whore’s perfume.
And here The Greatest comes to show the world
the savage splendor of his youth and grace,
his rapid hands, the latest thrumming dance;
he gives a course on how to launch attacks,
and know just why and when to go to war.
The entourage no longer serenades,
but fans recall, and that part never fades:
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Head full of passion, mouth full of rocks.
What was inside is now outside the box.

…..for M. C. Escher
What was inside is now outside the box
of tricks where mathematics schemes and plots
with art in endless flights of endless flights
of stairs that end up where all arts have crafts.
Woodcuts, mezzotints and lithographs:
birds turn into fish turn into birds.
Here outside-in is inside-out as hands
and pens emerge to draw opposing hands.
Birds absurdly mesh with other birds.
Woodcuts, mezzotints and lithographs
show stairs that lead to where all tricks and crafts
apply to endless flights of endless flights
of planar mathematics, schemes and plots.
What was outside is now inside the box.

…..for le Comte Edmond de Grisy
What was outside is back inside the box.
A cloak is waved, a burst of smoke and sparks;
the girl whose body we’ve seen slashed apart,
her blood and entrails spattered on a screen—
then disappeared — has reappeared, intact.
A tiger reexplores its cage, a vase
returns, a coach and horses rolls again,
their magic done, the vanished all restored.
The box was stripped and emptied — six bare sides
displayed and thrust before the audience,
and yet a sly illusionist’s deception
has somehow found a way to resurrect
them all, plus roses, doves, and cuckoo clocks.
Discreetly gathered objects fill the box.