ARK 34, Spire on the Death of L.Z.
to say then head wedded nail and hammer to the
work of vision
of the word
that is paradise,
this is called spine of white cypress
on the principle
of the intervals between cuckoos
and molecules, and molecules
The spine of cypress in this poem by Ronald Johnson caught my attention in part because it reminded me of having recently read Alain de Botton on the cypresses in the paintings of Van Gogh and how the painting reorganized de Botton’s sense of the landscape of Provence (and his general argument that good writing and innovative painting allow us to see anew):
It was a clear day, with a mistral blowing that ruffled the heads of the wheat in the adjacent field. I had sat in this same spot the day before, but only now did I notice that there were two large cypresses growing at the end of the garden, a discovery that was not unconnected to the chapter I had read the night before on van Gogh’s treatment of the tree. He had sketched a series of cypresses in 1888 and 1889. ‘They are constantly occupying my thoughts,’ he told his brother. ‘It astonishes me that they have not yet been done as I see them. The cypress is as beautiful in line and proportion as an Egyptian obelisk. and the green has a quality of such distinction. It is a splash of black in a sunny landscape, but it is one of the most interesting black notes, and the most difficult to get exactly right.’
Alain de Botton, “On Eye-Opening Art” in The Art of Travel
It is with great joy that I came across another cypress later in ARK. It occurs suitably in a poem (ARK 75, Arches IX (from Van Gogh’s Letters)) that stitches together quotations from the painter’s letters.
a terrace with two cypresses
a nameless black
charged with electricity
Charged like a conducting spine.
And so for day 2248