I was at SF MOMA two weeks ago
To catch the Keith Haring exhibit.
I walked around and
Looked at his graffiti drawings,
And something my father said
Echoed in my head-he didn't
Know who Keith Haring was.
I thought my father knew
Every artist, writer there is,
But he didn't know who Keith
The thought is so striking-
I need to write a poem about it.
I go down a floor and find a bench,
Get my notebook and I start
To write about my father and
Myself, how smart he was, still is,
But it will never be the same
Because of his sciatica,
Because of his blindness,
And because of all the years of
Abusing himself has worn him down.
Out of nowhere, a golf pencil is in front of me.
I look up to see a guard, handing the pencil
"Excuse me," I said, "what are
He doesn't say anything.
"A pencil? Why?"
He pointed to the paintings.
"I don't understand, why?"
He pointed to the paintings again.
"You think I'll write on the paintings?"
He just stood there, then puts the little
golf pencil in my hand.
The lead is dull, I know I cannot write
And I am so angry with him for interrupting me-
That I said: "I would not write on the paintings.
That would be disrespectful also think it's
Disrespectful for you to tell me what to
I give him the pencil and I walk away.
People stare at me as I do.
I walked around the museum for a while
To calm down.
I was so mad, mad that he interrupted me,
Mad that I yelled at him,
Mad that I can't write with what I want to,
But what angers me the most is
That the poem is lost to me-
I open up my notebook and try again
in the lobby, trying to calm
down, a screaming baby right by me-
then I think- my father is the one who taught me
That when it comes to art, do not settle for
Less, do not sell yourself out, do not cheapen
Yourself, it reminds me of that
Old Janis Joplin quote "Don't Compromise
Yourself, you're all that you got."
(I never thought I would mention
Janis and my father in the same sentence,
Much less a poem)
and it was he that taught me
Poems can't be
written with golf pencils
All golf pencils are good for
Is writing down golf scores
Suddenly, I wish my father
Could see normally again,
So I could show him the
Exhibit-that's Keith Haring, Dad.
He was a graffiti artist. He got
Arrested over and over because
He drew in subway stations
And we could've just looked at
The paintings and went:
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries