Cyber Corpse 2
Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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Judith Strasser

Is this a cartoon or what?

on the opening of an exhibit of art by H.C. "Cliff" Westermann

I. Art Talk

Slides flick on the wall:
Cliff the acrobat who enters
one-man shows on his hands,
upside-down. Cliff the vet,
the kid in Marine dress blue.

(Old soldiers discuss
his sharp-shooter medals,
ribbons from two campaigns.)

To see Cliff's Death Ships,
women in little black dresses
trip down to the gallery
arm-in-arm with men in ties.

II. The Planes

Bi-planes, bombers, single-
engined, single-minded
engines of death and destruction
crash in the ocean, crash
in the desert southwest.
(Purple mesas, crumbled cliffs.)
Kamikaze pilots drive planes
into ships, spike holes into
blazing hulls. Wings crumple,
hang askew. Stick torsos
somersault out. Tarmac cracks
near a hangar, tin-roofed, shards
sharp in its window frames.
The wind-sock droops like a cock
at half-mast. A friend
with a little red stunt plane
tells Cliff to dive-bomb City Hall.

III. "The Connecticut Ballroom"

Popeye socks a saguaro cactus
on Natsume paper made in Japan.
Vultures perch on spiky
bare branches, watch
mastodons die in the marsh.
An Arctic Death Ship, severed
by icebergs, founders on feathers
embedded in rag. A couple,
dressed fit to kill,
waltzes toward war
down the San Pedro pier.

IV. "See America First"

Tongues of flame lick
a skull; cracks flow
over the forehead like
rivers through North Vietnam.
A Death Ship lists;
searchlights beam
across a life-ring
tossed overboard. Sharks
segue into rats knifing
through yellow waves.

V. "Destructive Machine From Under the Sea"

The monster spreads its lips,
bares its teeth, chases stick people
into melting office towers.
And--at the same time!--shoots
a plane right out of the sky
(see the stick-passengers tumble)
soaks a pathetic stick-couple
with a giant spurt of jism.

VI. Mama Digdown's New Orleans Brass Band

The saints come marching in--
tuba, trumpet, trombone--
to lead us out of the gallery
past Cliff's mangy coyotes,
spewing volcanoes, feathers-
steeples- and palm-trees-
cum-phalluses, away from his
comic-book colors and school-kid-
awkward lines, up the stairs
past General Nuke (portrait
by Robert Arneson), his ballistic
missile nose, three-skull epaulettes.
In 1968, Mama Digdown's wailed
in their cradles, if they wailed
at all. They launch into a dirge--
just a closer walk with thee--
as we emerge at the cash bar.
Chardonnay? Merlot? Perhaps a nice
chablis? It's an icy dark night,
December. Tiny white lights
deck the wall, stretch toward the pane
glass window, slice through,
twinkle outside on winter-sharp
branches whipped by a no-good wind.


Thesis Riff

on seeing works by Jed Ela and Chuck Close

there are many
many of us
and nobody
nobody knows
knows what
what we
what we are
we are for

for are we
are we what we
what knows, knows
nobody and us
of many, many
are there

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