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READ: Adrian Matejka’s New Jean-Michel Basquiat-Inspired Poem, “& Later,”

trumpet

Take a look at Jean-Michel Basquiat’s mesmerizing 1984 painting “Trumpet.” It inspired a new poem from Adrian Matejka that he calls “& Later,”

Matejka won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award last year for “The Big Smoke,” his Jack Johnson-infused collection. Now the Indiana University professor is putting together a new book called “Collectable Blacks.”

“I get caught up easily in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings, especially his work focusing on boxers and jazz,” Matejka said. “His painting from 1984, ‘Trumpet,’ cracked open a tense holiday moment from my childhood. I don’t remember any actual trumpets at that holiday fracas, but Basquiat’s lines and pigments always seem to create unexpected opportunities for improvisation and meditation.”

Matejka made this observation for staff at the American Academy of Poets, which sent “& Later,” to some 300,000 readers September 4 as part of its digital dose of verse.  Readers can sign up for the “Poem a Day” project.

 

& Later,

Adrian Matejka

 —after “Trumpet,” Jean-Michel Basquiat

the broken sprawl & crawl
of Basquiat’s paints, the thin cleft

           of villainous pigments wrapping 

each frame like the syntax
          in somebody else’s relaxed

explanation of lateness: what had
          happened was.
Below blackened

crowns, below words crossed out
to remind of what is underneath:

           potholes, ashy elbows, & breath

that, in the cold, comes out in red light

& complaint shapes—3 lines
          from the horn’s mouth
in the habit of tardy remunerations.

All of that 3-triggered agitation,

all that angry-fingered fruition   

like Indianapolis’s 3-skyscrapered smile
when the sun goes down & even

the colors themselves start talking

          in the same suspicious idiom
          as a brass instrument—

thin throat like a fist,

           flat declinations of pastors
& teachers at Christmas in the inner city.

Shoulders back & heads up when
playing in holiday choir of hungry

           paints, chins covered
in red scribbles in all of the songs.

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