Empty Space

I have always enjoyed a profound feeling for space.
Not just the cold, black space of boyish adventures,
And distant, whirling stars,
But also space conceived
As the most immediately adjacent container of intimacy.
The space in which vases hum, books wait to be read,
And green plants rise to meet their rain.
What others see as empty space, as wasted void,
I have always seen as densely packed with points and planes,
Throbbing with curves and contours, arcs and lines,
Just aching for rough, hard things to come and inhabit them.
Aching with two-tenths love, one-tenth lust,
But for the most part, just aching,
With a soft, metaphysical expectancy,
Like barely scented nectar.

While I can´t imagine the absence of time,
I find I can, with Kant, imagine the absence of space.
I can imagine the irrepressible mind
Twittering away to itself, in its red-black dark,
Hardly noticing its things gone from under it.
But space? Is amazing.
Who could possibly have thought it up?
After the miracle of space itself all the junk it´s full of
Seems but a confused and disorganised afterthought.

That´s why I love Cubism,
And revere Braque equally with Picasso.
It is the painting of space itself.
I love to imagine the intense but delicate electricity
That must have suffused the atmosphere,
In those unlikely studios at Montmartre,
When those coolly burning revelations were transmitted;
Fresh instructions on how to touch and feel and see;
To that venerable, sanctified pair.
They showed us, at last, the space contained in things,
After too many centuries of platitudinous depiction
Of things contained in space.
As if the instantaneous arrangements of matter
Could have significance outside their moment.

On the other hand,
Those noisy, insolent Futurists;
Marinetti and his rowdy gang;
With all their pamphlets and palaver,
Thought that things whizzing about
Was the stuff that needed painting;
Rudely indifferent to the obvious,
That every movement
(including their own)
Needs somewhere to depart from,
And somewhere to arrive at;
Crowing one-eyed and conceited,
They strutted irreverently,
Before the mysterious throne,
Of beautiful, holy space.

Copyright © John Ferngrove 2009