This poem and many others were triggered by the exhibition “Eva Hesse Sculpture,” May 12-September 17, 2006, The Jewish Museum, New York. “Ringaround Arosie” “Ishtar,” “Hang-Up,” “Chain Polymers” “Ink Wash on Cardboard” “Just Before” “Contingent” “Laocoon” “Up the Down Road” “Eighter from Decatur” and “Oomamabooma” are titles of works by Eva Hesse. Some of the poems describe objects in Hesse’s work and others imagine Hesse’s life experiences—particularly her marriage at a young age to another artist and their early divorce, as againt the background of her historical experience. These poems are to quote Berryman, “essentially about an imaginary character (not the poet, not me)…who has suffered an irreversible loss and talks about (herself) in the first person, sometimes in the third, sometimes even in the second.” Lucy Lippard’s Eva Hesse, Da Capo Press, 1992, provided useful information along the way. Lastly, this book is in memory of sculptor Brian Wagner who first introduced me to the work of Eva Hesse and lent me all his Eva books that I never had the chance to return.
You targeted me and forced my extinction,
drew circles around the parts of my body
where you dared to aim: my neck, my wrists,
my breasts. How could I escape your asteroid
come hurtling? Too much of my history
is etched in stone. Like lichen or mica,
you subsumed even my shadow
and sealed over the crevices
where I roamed. You drove long stretches of highway
and read my desires in strip mining,
my sins exposed, determining
where to dig into the sediment’s
repository of old arguments.
Jaw hardened, fist banging down,
you did not say wait or anything else
that broke into words of love,
because you wanted to render
a bee’s hover and extract my DNA,
your artist’s eye trained on the darkest nights,
nothing but a chisel to pick away,
standing on top of that airless promontory,
bending over the rift to find a trace.
Measure my primitive atmosphere.
Preserve my dusky voice under glass.
– Harriet Levin