Roark studied with Philip Whalen at Naropa Institute. In addition, for seventeen
years he was Allen Ginsberg's assistant. He
involved in the process of rescuing the Naropa Institute audio archive, which is
in danger of audio degradation and disintegration.
poetry collections include, The San Francisco Notebook, One Night (with
Anne Waldman), Hymns, Awakening Osiris and Mona Lisa's Veil:
New and Selected Poems 1979-2001. He is also the author of Dissolve:
Screenplays to the Films of Stan Brakhage.
—written at the Denver Art Museum, October 29, 2003
In December 2002, I "retired" from writing poetry, but on Halloween of this year I went alone to see an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum called "From El Greco to Picasso," on tour from the Philips Museum, the first American modern art collection (begun in the early twenties). Besides every painting in the collection being beautiful (having been culled from thousands of paintings in the complete collection), it was also here that I for the first time saw how the “cool” colors receded in a painting by Cezanne, and I became so dizzy that I had to sit on the floor for several minutes before I could go on.
The purpose of art is not to recreate reality but to
create a reality of the same intensity.
In the 1940s, the sculptor Giacometti went to see his first film and, bored by the two-dimensional images on the screen, he turned around to see what was behind him. He saw a tableau of people sitting unnaturally stiff and still throughout the darkened theater, separated by huge depths of space, lit by the projector’s flickering blue light. And it’s that feeling of an object surrounded by a palpable sense of space that he’s captured in his sculptures.
The cool reflected light of polished marble
against the dark backdrop of a
discarded red dress and the
warmth of her skin—
The rain and rebellious river have eroded
the rock’s insistence to create these cliffs.
Fog leaps over the surface of a green sea.
Translucent clouds a change of weather
above an eggshell path meandering
through the brief life of flowers.
5. As He Slowly Becomes Nature
Lost in the haunted blue shadows
grey as the abandoned books
he has left behind.
The wave of heat a sheet of periwinkle
like the blue glow inside a candle
flickering over the forest’s orange hills.
We always see a face first, or the light through leaves,
or sense the warmth on our skin as an impression
that immediately retreats toward the infinite zero
of our not so remarkable star, from which we take all light.
8. How Nature Seems to Breathe in Cezanne
An attempt to wordlessly convey emotion in a personal
language of color, or as a song in the spiritual sense
of one object’s relationship to another, like waking up
next to a bouquet—the healing touch of color and scent—
Caught in mid-air, the melancholy snow
exists in no real way,
as it rises back into the sky.
The air is tawny with weather—
the mist is shining, indistinct as water is,
and the stars that would guide us
whisper that I was wrong,
as round and round the candle a moth flies,
its wings as bright as April,
evaporating into silence.
I dreamed a field of Blakean angels
like fireflies surrounding your face,
their golden glow on your half-cheek,
and behind you a field of lavender,
under deep and threatening skies.
But Blake is dead
and his holy paintings no one remembers.
Make me into something new.
I took a splinter from your finger once—
do you remember?
How like a gazelle you were,
a girlish blue that was
cold as snow is.
WHISPERING IN BED WITH YOUR LOVER
Whispering in bed with your lover
is what you want from wine—
the incense smoke so silvered out
it becomes a dark thread—its radiance
borrowed from the ocean whose surface
is as obscure and alive and distant
as actual living is, just so I have
vanished into what is all around me,
the way snow sparkles for a moment,
before it turns to rain.
JEWELS IN THE DUSK
(for D. F-S, on her 43rd birthday)
The end of every color is tangled in darkness.
I walk onto a bridge in the evening
where night fishermen gather, become lovely
silhouettes in the setting sun. The fragrance of silence
has its own character. We won’t discuss our life
among the ruins, or our sense of remoteness,
so close to shore. If the fish hear us, they will hide,
shimmering through a dark blue sky.
At night the lights flicker and the windows
rattle as I go outside to see if anything can be done—
no longer sad but silenced as everyone is silenced,
prepared for what might happen by what has happened,
as if happiness is something that is only written about in books,
or something always about to happen, or it’s ambivalent
because we don’t know what we really want or why
and every time something falls over it's always falling over
all the way to the bottom, until it is as if I am waiting
for it to implode, and it shrinks back into itself a little further
each time, the way the room does just before I go to sleep
until I doubt that such a thing as happiness exists at all.
But when the crisis has passed and I have done almost nothing,
I feel that I’ve missed something without knowing precisely
what is, or if it’s something else, or what I could have done
differently, or if it’s more important to me because I miss it,
whatever it is, as I travel further and further into the past,
the enormous quiet all around me, no one to hear me
or what I’m saying.