The eerie prescience of Djelloul Marbrook’s poem sequence Manhattan Reef (Brushstrokes and glances) haunts the mind as New York City painfully wrings itself out. Breathtakingly prophetic, one of the poems gives voice to a drowning art world. Marbrook couldn’t have known that paintings actually would be drowned in the city’s Chelsea art district less than two years after the poem was published by Deerbrook Editions, and yet he clearly envisioned it.
The Curator Speaks
Enjoy the sunlight now,
some of you will be eyeless
down by garnets and beryls
in tunnels and watery cathedrals.
More always rises than meets the eye.
Waters rise to spare you beetles and flies,
to harbor your predecessors and womb
a new idea of creatureliness.
You were a jeweled motherboard
whose green brushstrokes of circuitries
hypnotized the peregrine that nictates now
in the antennae of drowned towers.
Now you are the moorings of dirigibles,
buoys and sea gongs for ospreys and ships.
Squid will massage your orifices,
stars will sequin you and check
your many-chambered heart.
No more hours or holidays,
no special exhibitions. Storms
will be heaven’s business, whales
will sing of the coming race;
even blades of light
will learn to rust.
Elsewhere in Manhattan Reef he imagines swimming through The Metropolitan Museum.
The Paintings Speak
We’re going to higher ground;
we’ve urged you do the same,
you’ve chosen to misunderstand.
Environment’s each other’s eyes
and other senses you despise.
These works witness you are holy alchemists.
There’s no place antiseptic enough
to save you from this viral truth.
If you were as open-eyed as fish
you’d elude this exquisite peril.
We leave you The Metropolitan to explore
unhindered by reminders of your divinity.
Swim among its empty galleries,
redact, censor, forget, devolve—
we await another race.
We told you to speak the wordless mother tongue
in senses you said you didn’t have
as you piled conceits on oyster beds
insisting we were mad.
We welcome the waters to every floor
that every molecule has seen before,
thousands of Atlantises unafraid to sleep,
their secrets becoming minerals.
Nothing lost, all is murmurous in this rite
of green alchemy, this ennoblement
of base noise and lewd light.
The sequence ends as prophetically as it begins:
We guess at our weathers, surmise
the nature of our orbits, wobble or tilt
of axis, but without artists’ daring
and cursed by our own unwillingness to see
the main thing we haven’t noticed
is that the lights are out,
the museum is dark.
Brushstrokes and glances is available from amazon, our distributor, and direct from Deerbrook Editions
The book cover features the painting The Approaching Season, by Irene Rice Pereira.
Read more Marbrook.
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