Poeticizing Meaning: Ella and Billie Sing A Number For Gerhard
(A Standard Audience Request)

Poeticizing Meaning: Ella and Billie Sing A Number For Gerhard
(A Standard Audience Request)

Sitting at my desk, with a thick wad of recycled
paper clamped to a clipboard in front of her, my

facepainted three-year-old daughter Billie clutches
a red pen in her left hand, a black in her right,

simultaneously marking in stereo: This is a picture
of someone riding in the big wood basket of a hot air

balloon; this is a picture of the wolf in Peter
and the Wolf; this is those lemurs fighting

at the zoo; this is the river otter swimming
under water; this is a big huge black and red

explosion. After the explosion, torqued ovals
and jagged peaks follow: what’s that a picture

of? I ask. Billie says: It’s not a picture
of anything, it’s an abscratch picture.

The pizzicato scratch of pen satisfies her
ear’s milky hunger for fluid feedback, ink

pouring from two fists into a riot
of abscratched pictures. Shrill

song through gritted teeth. Live evil
threat. Tense cheeriness. Now gray

has gone the way of oil, and there’s only
so much in the ground. But the figure,

that’s another story. Someone spotted
a polar bear during a February blizzard

at the Art Institute of Chicago. The rivers
in Oslo have never been stepped in twice,

but a rising flood of appreciation threatens levees
and dripping locks of capital. A bluegreen forest

in Sonoma is enough to feed a yellow-bellied
warbler, flitting flitting to the top of the picture

plane. There’s a man in that painting, the daughter
says. Really? Where is he? He’s right there

and he’s wearing a hat…can’t you see
him daddy
? Oh yes, there is a man

in that painting. I can see him now,
sweetie. And that man has a name.

on the occasion of an opening
November 17, 2005

on the occasion of Gerhard Richter’s opening at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York City, November 17, 2005