This is what color cannot do,
unmask the homeliest form:
military bearing in a bedpan,
passion in a mushroom;
a cathedral in half an artichoke.
Color is camouflage, but these breathe
like an early morning field
of snow over the litter of a city.
1. Pepper #30, 1930
The most famous of his peppers,
photographed in a tin funnel,
pocked sides rising into obscurity.
At the stem the lobes meet
like lovers subsiding, eyes closed,
nuzzling the flesh they buried
their teeth in—their shadows
the dusk on the other side
of ecstasy. All love is captured here:
the curving upon itself, the strain
of flesh against the delight and limit
of its skin, caught as if in volcanic ash
in a moment of fulfillment and loss,
as if all darkness could be distributed
within the folds of these undulations,
as if intimacy were a form of light.
2. Kelp and Pebbles, 1934
Here is the signature of god
in a swoop of seaweed
upon a wave-washed congregation
of stone, a clear but impenetrable
sign, the unspeakable name of the sea.
3. Jose Clemente Orozco
At first, the strong face woos you,
dark hair pressed back by two
hands hurriedly, the square jaw
tilted upward as if in challenge
to a rival shouting from a dais.
But then you catch the reflection
in his glasses, the window curved
into an arch, against which Weston,
himself, stands bent over the camera
squarely in the center of Orozco’s
eye—the old 8X10 with the pinhole
light leak he could never find.
So who, in this picture is the man
Orozco? The artist, the revolutionary,
glaring into an uncertain future, stern
and clear eyed, or the subject
reflecting his maker, lens upon lens?
4. Elise, 1933
He asked her to sit for him,
but she would not—indignant.
“You would discover things
which are none of your business.”
They compromised, finally,
on an ear, perhaps a little more.
Poor Elise! Didn’t you know
that the ear is a doorway,
and the soul melts from its
folds, conversant as the sheets
on a bed lovers have abandoned?
5. Dunes, Oceano and the Untitled Nudes, 1934
(often displayed together)
Charis first, her face hidden, her body
angled against its curves, then the dunes
like a storm at sea, and when you stand
back, you discover what love in another
language has already taught you:
That a woman’s body moves like desert
sand in waves, sharp-edged yet smooth,
of light and dark, remaking itself
in steep rises that cannot be climbed
without sinking and valleys so deep
you cannot descend far enough to enter.