Two Paintings by Degas
“The Racehorse, Amateur Jockeys,” took more than
13 years to not complete. Is that the opposite of racing?
Early on, after he’d started it, he promised the singer
(for whom he’d agreed to paint it) he’d have it done in 5
Nine years later the singer demanded it and Degas asked him to
wait a few more days because it wasn’t finished. Where, if anywhere,
is the meaningless race against time?
About six months later the singer told Degas to
hand it over or get sued. Degas surrendered it. The painting: several
horses, four jockeys, two spectators in the foreground, a
line of spectators distant enough to be a solid band of varied color, a small
puffing locomotive, and behind that a hill with a road leading
to houses, sky.
Years later, apparently within a short time, Degas painted a riderless
horse and a fallen jockey. The horse turns his head to us
as he leaps over the fallen man. No race anywhere
in sight. The landscape simple now: grass and sky. The grass sketchy in places.
Done, it looks unfinished.
to make a
that is is-
is and I
My life as a hut, a roar
joke, all joke, ink
blot, ink botch, take a guess, live
a guess, look at this mess, an
spill. My life an inked
shape on a page, a writer, an eraser, here
is my drafty shack, my hovel, I have
at it, tilt at it, go full tilt, half-tilt,
blottingly. And with this blotty paw
hand you this blotesque self
onto, into, through a page.