Author’s Note: The week Jane Freilicher passed away, I was writing a tribute poem for her 90th birthday celebration at the Poetry Project. I decided to scrap everything and selected some of my favorite paintings of hers. I looked at each one for ten seconds, looked away, and took notes. I arranged these notes into poems and chopped up their syntax, distorted them and made what I see as little verbal distillations of each painting. Each poem is tagged with Freilicher’s title. I end the poem with a ritual that is the inverse of my process, where I asked everyone at the Project to close their eyes for ten seconds and picture their favorite Jane Freilicher painting. They were then instructed to open their eyes, pick a spot on the wall, and “project” that painting there, so we could sit in a psychic gallery of her work for a moment. It was nice to see everyone’s eyes open and close, to imagine the mental pictures moving outwards.


for Jane Freilicher

light blue above
conversing colors of pre-work
you are inside
a precarious slant
night curtains keep you
hidden surface arrangements
it’s really going to happen soon
and you go
                                                                                                        The Painter’s Table

a dark square in his chest
a pretty menacing lean
if not for all the color
turquoise diagonals
attack the doorframe
and a mint cheek
                                                                                                        Frank O’Hara

the other shape of intention
threaded candy trees
not bleeding but exploding
a field with an incident on top
                                                                                                        Abstract Landscape

these ones come a lot to be against things
their ghosts will hang back
and the turpentine is sad
and wants to coat your nostrils
to touch you
do you like this bit, this part?
what kind of pink are you?

flesh bay curvature
everything in it is herself
plucked trees
into sidelong gaze
                                                                                                        Nude on a Green Blanket

you look comfortable
in your grass aura
my brother in leaning
                                                                                                         Portrait of John Ashbery

a gray dome in blush clutter
your specialized
transparent face
some distant
but not too distant era
hanging on
I can’t have it, and this makes me
shivering and dark
                                                                                                        Casement Window

the clearest cloth that ever was
an exercise of viewing the world
as a table
in mythic proportions
orchid light on cellophane
buildings with steps, with tic-tac-toe grids
three sardines on a plate
surrounded by clouds
what could be better than that?

                                                                                                        Parts of a World

my silver platform into day
into myself reflected
the classic inside/outside conversation
given new color
window, frame, my scaffold, my mirror,
how so many rectangles
form a brain knot
                                                                                                        Painter in the Studio

boiled egg porthole into
the memory of a greenhouse
the petals all line up for naming
tapwater waterline bifurcates
the ocular stem
martian interior calm

on the 22nd day of spring
the sea turned orange
stock characters alighted billboards
the dunes turned geometry
I’ll be inside on my slate
waiting it out
with my white puffs in a vessel
held very close to me
                                                                                                        Pierrot and Peonies

there is the sill
then the city
draped torso sizing
up a container
then the skyish mountains
blending, conversing
comparing shapes
yellow coming straight
from the source
of all yellow

blinking very hard into seascape
streaming surface
matte neon
out of the corners of ladies’
mouths very up close
a feeling like
6 years/ 6 layers
                                                                                                        Light Blue Above

the traditional attitude
had a sharp, gorgeous tooth
a blue to make your hands ache
clever buildings matching up their seams
the even cleverer Hudson
staying out of the blue business
white megaphones play music
and suck up a little more water
                                                                                                        Study in Blue and Gray

close your eyes and think
of your favorite painting by Jane Freilicher.
let it rest on the inside of your eyelids
count to 10
now open your eyes and project that painting
onto the walls of the Parish Hall
at The Poetry Project of St. Mark’s Church
on this day December 12,

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