Two Figures by Francis Bacon

A. E. Weisgerber

On the cloth, the old man makes room
and draws in two wrestling figures,
whose lines suggest a violent time.
Gravity-defying, lumpy things,
they lie, one single heap of hunger.
It's easy to see play-time's ended
in the way they interlock hands,
bring desire to the mat. Today,

think, when strict constraint will have ended,
how images might lay bare hunger:
old sardine tins in sick beds, room-
fires lit by fumble-fingered hands—
not metaphors— all these sorts of things
transgress our words, our plastic figures.
For instance: though oil costs more today,
it can't yet drive us from sad times.

This virus was a lab-formed figure
and so, like most microscopic things,
waited for rules to be suspended.
It's entering the dark-rooms today.
Marvelous mouth. Marvelous hands.
Even micron-small things know hunger.
We differ not a whit, spend time
seeking new space, moving old rooms.

Today a sharp, aesthetic hunger
ran me over. Bacon clapped hands;
my need dissolved into blurred figures
of serpents shedding skins of time.
Dry cough-arrows zeroed in today
on my accounts. No vital green thing
but jealousy, from warheart rooms,
spied a tumbling embrace now ended.

These intertwined lines of counted things
let Bacon's [erection] breathe today.
I'll pass time, catalog old hungers
while math invades poetry's room.
Some storytellers make both time
and dirty money with clean hands—
research biologists! Lives ended,
then caged in statistical figures.

We trusted our lives to those hands.
So? skip the rent one or two times.
This virus, a clove-pierced-orange thing,
floated on sheets of air, transcended
time, thunder-shook our tattered rooms,
downloaded DNA strings today,
casu'lly made us supine figures;
yes, for our cleaving flesh, it hungered.

I thought of Bacon's oeuvre today,
unfurled his high flag from my room.
I saw my own time-speckled hands,
his straining forces, ample figures
as caged, isolated, distended,
greasy receipts from Father Time.
His paintings show his unique hungers;
I suppose this apple reveals things.

Bacon chronicled thoughts of time.
His figures struck poses long ended,
pinned them to traditions of today—
an archival grieving. Bald hunger,
centrally revealed in Two Figures,
welcomes me to that shadowed room,
of somewhat injured and damaged things,
figures freed by his paint-marred hands.

In Bacon's room, figures enframe Time,
(clement thing, whose hunger lended
my hand a key to him today.)
A. E. Weisgerber is a Frost Place Scholar, Reynolds Fellow, and Features writer. Twitter: @aeweisgerber email: web: