Landscape With a Blur of Conquerors by Richard Siken

“To have a thought, there must be an object—
the field is empty, sloshed with gold, a hayfield thick
with sunshine. There must be an object so land
a man there, solid on his feet, on solid ground, in
a field fully flooded, enough light to see him clearly,

the light on his skin and bouncing off his skin.
He’s easy to desire since there’s not much to him,
vague and smeary in his ochers, in his umbers,
burning in the open field. Forget about his insides,
his plumbing and his furnaces, put a thing in his hand

and be done with it. No one wants to know what’s
in his head. It should be enough. To make something
beautiful should be enough. It isn’t. It should be.
The smear of his head—I paint it out, I paint it in
again. I ask it what it wants. I want to be a cornerstone,

says the head. Let’s kill something. Land a man in a
landscape and he’ll try to conquer it. Make him
handsome and you’re a fascist, make him ugly and
you’re saying nothing new. The conqueror suits up
and takes the field, his horse already painted in

beneath him. What do you do with a man like that?
While you are deciding, more men ride in. The hand
sings weapon. The mind says tool. The body swerves
in the service of the mind, which is evidence of
the mind but not actual proof. More conquerors.

They swarm the field and their painted flags unfurl.
Crown yourself with leaves and stake your claim
before something smears up the paint. I turned away
from darkness to see daylight, to see what would
happen. What happened? What does a man want?

Power. The men spread, the thought extends. I paint
them out, I paint them in again. A blur of forces.
Why take more than we need? Because we can.
Deep footprint, it leaves a hole. You’d break your
heart to make it bigger, so why not crack your skull

when the mind swells. A thought bigger than your
own head. Try it. Seriously. Cover more ground.
I thought of myself as a city and I licked my lips.
I thought of myself as a nation and I wrung my hands,
I put a thing in your hand. Will you defend yourself?

From me, I mean. Let’s kill something. The mind
moves forward, the paint layers up: glop glop and
shellac. I shovel the color into our faces, I shovel our
faces into our faces. They look like me. I move them
around. I prefer to blame others, it’s easier. King me.”

wise fool (what is the point of art)

Maybe my hands are smoky,

fingers count one, two, burn-pull

or just your breath hanging in midair,

words crystallizing between us, floating

out a frosted window from your teeth.

waterfire. a gushing sound approaches

my brush, painting hair out of my eyes again

green forehead, green eyes.

they are balloons of light, coloured with melodies.

I must use my twitching, twisted phylanges to birth them to this plane

so I am not the only one who believes in them.


weighted, wandering, I gaze at

each fleck of gold, caught in

the streaky colours that fill the walls,

carefully composed into chaos.

worries smile and crawl

out of my skin

curling up safe in a tiny triangle of green,

laying down in a perfectly shaped eye

grinning back at me.

They live there now, healed and happy

whenever i find this painting

I will also find them.

Blindness/Modern Art

Last night, as some friends and I sat at dinner, the conversation turned to the various paintings that hung on the walls nearby. I was surprised by the deep degree of loathing that was expressed towards these works of art, primarily from individuals that had little to no knowledge or interest in any kind of painting. Finally, one of them leaned back and said, “I just HATE modern art.”


I stared at him in shock. My disbelief mistaken for offense, he apologized and tried to explain.

This is like a colorblind person saying they hate the color red. They don’t see it or understand it and aren’t trying to do so. They can’t see the various shades – magenta is red, ochre is red. There may be something within that huge category that they do not find appealing, but that doesn’t encompass all within it.

The whole purpose of modern art is throwing aside all traditions and presuppositions for the sake of experimentation. And some of those experiments are amazing. It’s taking control over the elements of art and creating absolutely whatever the artist has in mind. It is total and complete freedom of expression.

This is modern art:


This is modern art:

This is modern art:

This is modern art:

This is modern art:

This is modern art:

File:Paul Cézanne, Pyramid of Skulls, c. 1901.jpg

I’m not saying it’s all amazing. I’m not saying it’s all perfect. But it is BEAUTY, and the idea behind the works is freedom.

So please don’t write off modern art.


dripping into the

misunderstood parts of

the mind, phrases


shapes wrapping

around each

other flow so

forth on

and forward

tied. transfixed.

looming into the eye,

peering back into

the mind hopefully

Did I say something?

Did you hear it?

for Maria