Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 4, December 2011

Charles Tarlton
Oakland, California, USA


A Memory of Color in The Coronation of Sesostris (2000) by Cy Twombly

We got off the rattly green-and-yellow bus in front of the Plaza Monumental de Toros in Tijuana and were swept along with the crowd through the turnstiles and up into our seats on the sunny side of the arena. "Musica! Musica!" the crowd yelled. The band struck up a brassy pasodoble and the populace roared its approval. Someone passed a bota around and the wine was sharp and cool in the hot sun. We were all impatient for the corrida to begin; suddenly the gate swung open and a black bull with fierce horns ran into the middle of the arena—confused, fearful, and ferocious, he rushed this way and then that, searching for his enemy. The crowd was deafening. A guy in a bolero hat was passing a used paper-flowered banderilla person to person through the seats; the sharp barbed end was crusted brown with old blood and the shaft was draped with red roses.

a crown of thorns
clamped down on Jesus' head
the sixth station
via dolorosa
links God and shedding blood

my young son, Jim
played the role of Christ
in a pageant
carried by all his school friends
his arm hung down like Marat's

when Sue's pig felt
the tiny piston crash
into his skull
all resistance went out
of his muscles—viande

I was doodling once in English class, I remember the topic was Richardson's Clarissa, and I drew a simple five-petalled flower, a kind of stylized daisy in a clay pot. I used this drawing afterwards as a kind of personal logo. I learned to draw it easily, in about ten strokes and a swirly thing for the shadow. My daughter, Rosemary, admired it and always wanted to use it herself. I drew the image of it carefully, the essence of it, and had that made into a rubber stamp; I gave it to her with much ceremony. I still get notes signed that way.

"There's a daisy"
we'll weave it in your hat
King of the May
draw straight lines in a row
top with dollops of red

a young man, tall
and very thin stands close
to the canvas
his fingers inching on paint,
scratching with crayon

in bright sunshine
distances determine
Rancho Tejon hillsides
stain of poppies brushed on

In 1951, I lived in the little town of Rialto, near San Bernardino in Southern California. I was thirteen, and I got a job working in the Rialto Orange Company packinghouse. I was assigned to an electric stapling machine in a dark basement under the sorting and packing floor where I made cardboard boxes. Oranges trucked from the groves were dumped into hoppers. From there they tumbled onto an elaborate system of conveyor belts where the women sorted eating oranges from juicers. They caught the most beautiful of the eating oranges, wrapped them quickly in a square of orange tissue and packed them in one of my boxes with the beautiful Spanish woman in a yellow dress with red roses on the side, and the words, La Reina.

eros, yellow
painted mask on a face
love's underside
the red crown torn away
shadow of filigree

my mother kept
roses against summer's
yellow and red
heat. They climbed the fences
in the shimmering light

wide desert sands
yellow as the sunlight
against "white seas"
held back barbarians
Pharaoh's secure "red lands"

As the Cristoforo Colombo pulled into Naples harbor, the Italians on board, returning home after 20 or 30 years working in New York, were waving frantically and happily to other Italians crowded onto the docks to welcome them. One older man, call him Giuseppe, who had talked to us the night before in the bar and who had run a small Italian delicatessen in Queens for twenty-five years, was being met by his entire family. They had come to Naples on the train from his hometown of Cicciano. He had pushed through to the rail and was yelling in Italian and waving to people in the crowd, when he suddenly stopped and, in front of everyone, quietly dropped over dead. Of a heart attack, someone said.

a golden bird
nesting in the moon's rays
not noticing
a pair of hard gnarled thumbs
reaching out of the dark

the Pharaohs hid
behind conquest legends
never budging
from their sybaritic
pleasured seraglios

Spanish monstrances
brass and gold obloquy
hot rituals
melting the paint on walls
blending yellow and red



The ten panels of Cy Twombly's Coronation of Sesostris can be viewed here.

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