by Eric Wertheimer
In West's painting "Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky"
Franklin's friends appear as unwinged angels, an effluence of a storm.
But after a moment, they are what they are--only slaves
Hard at work on modernity's indispensable rhombus, the kite.
Their job is to anchor the line, to see that it
Points to the west and beyond, keeping the key
--a double O-o-w, blacker even than the sky
they ignore-aloft for Ben's righteous fist.
They subject the great man to a minor
Charge while others labor on more modern
Generators and conductors, round fire,
In a calibrated genius of serene uncharacteristic disregard.
Franklin the hero is too handsome here.
And the poor little "angels of reason" are ugly in calculated
Contrast, puggishly balding, too determined around the eyes,
As they administer aid from the sub-regions of big cogito.
In Ben's uncelestially linked hand, there is a scrolled cloth
or paper, a careless gesture to the earth,
a connecting figure between the new
Dialogues, above and below, self-annihilating strike.
No one is wet in Pennsylvania. They are blown by an eastern wind.
They reveal nothing in their tasteful resistance to invisible forces.
Is the head--the cerebrum as it appears beneath hair, bone, and cloud--
Tantamount to the mind? Is the center of this scene a capital
Monster, with blind contraptions and sparks careening in oil?
Another kite soars like a sea-phantom in the blackest part of the sky,
above his mind. And the small fiends
Who minister his knuckled frequency do not know to fear
Its omen. Ben himself seems to launch this second kite
From the dark side of his authority, the leeward position of change.
There is not enough of the kite here to trust the data,
Which makes for a kind of distant satire.
It is enough to know that the line itself is important;
it is the kite, producing
Think of the incurious spindles, the slack that must have sped
Out line upon line, Benjamin doubled,
in the agonized rolls of worry and
in the cool fastness of sight.
As if to say:
These sheets, all made gray, to the wind.
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