The Triumph of Light over Darkness, Vienna, 1904

Shunned by the University for suggesting human existence consists of nothing more than the infinitely repeated cycle of birth, copulation, and death—Klimt guards his nearly finished mural with a shotgun, shouting to his detractors from the balcony of the Great Hall:

“Is it my fault the jellyfish swamp the pier
in Binz, captivating the young couple
on their honeymoon?

Is it my fault the woman’s legs dangle
over the edge of the dock as she questions
the motive behind cold Rügen air,
as she considers the sting of the jellyfish,
considers jumping into the chill-ice water
to grab, to hold the rubbery flesh in her fists?

Was I the one to put poison in the mandrake?
To pay the pugilist money for drawing blood?
There is little solace in this world
for those with swollen spleens, for those
who land ass-up after flipping
from a trampoline. The neck breaks so easily
and there are allergens—”

the painter pauses to add a stroke
of dark green under the waif’s left breast—

“The couple will leave the jellyfish, go back
to the pink blankets of the boarding house,
caress each other into an assault of sweat
before collapsing on separate sides of the bed,
each the loneliest person in the world.

So off with your frogmarch, your machinery,
I guarantee your daughters will know
the right time to take off their clothes.”

Image By: Dionne Hartnett

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