Picture: Franz Marc: Gazelle.

How would I begin to count the hours I spent staring at this painting? A print of it hung on the wall above my bed from my earliest years until I left home for university. My eyes traced the lines ten thousand times: that strong diagonal that scores off the bottom quarter of the picture; the echoes and reflections of triangles; the perfect curve; the suggestions of light split by a prism – and the uncomplicated eye staring back at me, just right of centre, rendered in strokes so deft that it seemed perpetually on the verge of blinking. Since then, I have scoured paintings for similar eyes, and found them only in Marc, Chagall and the occasional Russian icon: eyes which suck you into the heart of innocence and compassion; great, welling, bovine eyes; eyes which know nothing – and everything – of wars.

Yet as a child still learning what art could be, I did not see the gazelle for years: just the eye, and the way the lines radiated out from it – until one day, in a rush of discovery, I realised that those twin prongs were horns, the spindle-forelegs outstretched, the muzzle folded in upon the haunches. It was a moment of triumph, and the gazelle was young and spry and carefree for many a year.

Now, when I look at you, gazelle, I must restrain the thing in me which sees you as a scapegoat: the great squared swathes behind you the citadel which has cast you out; your eye imploring. You are not exhausted; you have not staggered over crag and fell until the strength within you waned. You have not lain down to die. Your eye is not set to close and never open.

Where are you going next, my blue gazelle, my tri-toned prayer in form and line?

Posted by >Giles Watson’s poetry and prose on 2012-10-31 17:23:10

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