Saturday, March 15, 2014


"Still Life with Statue"
in Portraits
(Out-of-the-Loop Press, Sacramento, 2005)

Mastery of the art of being invisible doesn't come easy. Crowley had his "cloak of invisibility" and his friends swore it worked. At least that he wandered through  some very dangerous places and emerged unscathed. 

A statue, of course, might be a very good place to conceal one's  presence.  I've never seen an "invisible statue", but then that's the point.  John McClaren, credited along with William Hall for creating Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, hated them.  In fact, during his 53 years as park superintendent he made it his practice to fight against the city and  patrons whenever they insisted some statue would be lovely, "here"  or  "over there". 

He wanted things kept "natural".  He won some battles, and lost some.  But his crusade didn't end there. What he couldn't prevent he invisibilized by planting shrubs and trees and foliage around them, so dense the offending eyesore was completely obscured. 

The Shakesperean Garden was no exception. The bust of  Shakespere placed in the garden was so covered with impenetrable Shakesperean bramble, thicket and thorn that no one even remembered it was there.  As the stubborn Scotsman declared after a losing skirmish, " "Aye, then, we'll plant it ott!"  

So none of McLaren's reviled statues ("stookies", as he called them) were visible. At least not during his lifetime, or my childhood when that same wild and largely unkempt garden was one of my favorite haunts.  Would that I could say McLaren's mastery of invisibility won the day.  Shortly after he died in 1943 the city honored his memory by  erecting a statue of him in a prominent and very visible location. (The statue had been donated some years before by a friend and was found under some blankets in one of the park's stables, where McLaren had hidden it.)

For the next few decades the city also cleared most of the "offending" shrubbery and cover that hid the remainder of their glorious monuments scattered throughout the park.  The bust of Shakespere?  That, too. The old Shakespere garden, wild and untended as Shakespere himself might have preferred, is now completely manicured.  Ironically, you can't see the bust, except by special permission. It's hidden in a locked iron box, to prevent theft.  It's probably the best the ghost of the Old Scotsman could muster by way of a last laugh.

Taking her cue from McLaren's difficulties with invisibility, this statue abandoned the idea of trying to hide behind  shrubbery or under blankets.  Instead, she prefers to maintain her invisibility by hiding in plain sight, where no one would think of looking for her.

Still Life with Statue

She stands for seeming hours,
mimes hardly moving, imperceptible
changes query in the hesitant ranges,
move on over open ground, soundless.

She has finally mastered invisibility,
sewed a cloak that bends the light
to impossibly uninteresting angles
barely breathing at the margins;
a sustained aikido defeating attention.

In Mauroc they remove the shine,
cover with hijab, deform glances,
walk astride a hobbled gait as if to say,
Allah has not visited, who wants that?

She says nothing, involves no one.
Her immobility stretches over canvass,
no startled birds emerge,
white gesso glaze redoubles the sunlight,
hiding the texture of grass at her feet;
stones cover her eyes.

He is young, vibrant, attentive,
a gaze that says you need to know,
shows good teeth, speaks taste
and patience while a brief gust
blows a kiss of paper cup her way.
The artifice of a make-do vase
for a sudden bouquet thought
withers for want of an address.

The small hour brushes shady hues
across the vacant stare of afternoon.
Stones cave inward, so densely gray
Erato's arbor only thickens its wall
in a silence of perfect refusal.

While nightfall drapes,

a dust cloud over the pond
studies her reflection.


The poem was also inspired by "Ondine",  Isamu Noguchi (marble, 1925)":

Author Bio:  Red Slider writes, "If you Google His name you will find it suitable for a Library of the Invisible catalog."  More information at

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