Victor Allen



The painter lives in a two-story house of brick and tension.
His studio
is in a small and square bedroom
stuffed behind a doorless entrance.
This beginning
marked by a golden strip
connecting the frame
via the floor
is also the finish line
for the hallway’s narrow marathon
and red wine carpeting.
The room grounds faded parquet and few objects.
In the center
a stool rests below an easel and untouched canvas
like a dog
crouching before its master.
Up against one of the four white walls
a TV displays the imagery that an electronic
portable cyclops was forced to record
with a look as intensely engaged with its prey
as the pen’s tip
pushed up against a dull piece of paper.
He hopes that it will radiate inspiration–
that the dim late afternoon light
mixed with the ever-changing vision
will wrap around his mind and squeeze out an idea
similar to the way that his hand
squishes paint out of a tube.
Yet this never happened
since for him the TV is an artist
painting every appearing image in a millisecond
placing all the right colors and shapes
in the correct place at once.
While he sits and stares at his rival
resentment runs wild throughout his body.


Four months of artist’s block
have slipped under his nose
and thickened his mustache.
Every day
he dips a thin brush into black paint.
Not knowing what to do
how to start
he disposes the paint onto the wall facing the TV.
3 p.m.
is no exception.
The brush is a crane controlled by him
the clueless conductor
stuck in front of the canvas’ sacred terrain.
Four hours later
his wrist dabs paint onto this special mural
filling an interior boundary
of an ice crevice
with pebbles.
Failure swings through his mind
while he dumps more and more
intentional stains
frustration swirls in these circles
bearing the spherical imperfection
of a tied up grocery bag.
The sun ducks down
and the vast night jumps up
sticking one of its millions of legs
throughout the house.
He puts his brush down
gets off his stool
walks over to the light switch
turns it on.
The overhead lamp
shoots the light’s shelter
to the four corners of the room
resembling the behavior of an explorer’s umbrella
protecting them from a rain
as overwhelming as the night.
At that very moment
the TV channel turns to static.
The sprinting dots
and the wall that used to be 100% white
are identical twins
staring into each other’s anger
provoked by their contrasting personalities.
This reminds him that he too is going to endure
a face-to-face confrontation of similarity and difference:
Claudia is supposed to arrive any minute.


He leaves the spectator’s throne
down the stairs
through the living room
and goes into the kitchen.
Picking tea and excuses
he sits at the kitchen table
and waits for the hot water
to boil.
One minute sinks slowly–
he wants the others
to be heavier
so he opens the door
that leads to the backyard
and looks out onto a mellow
5-foot-tall hedge
surrounding a terrain
of bumped black dirt.
A rectangular pool rests in the middle
like an island
of turquoise water
in a sea of small trees and tar.
The backyard is a tiny fragment
of the Caribbean Sea
He walks onto the surrealist postcard
and sits next to the pool.
Beneath the calm water
flattened by the fragile ruler
of undisturbed time
a dead and blue trout shines.
Light blasts up from the fat corpse
into his eyes.
The intensity convinces him
that the scales
have left the state of
being a graveyard
on the sea creature’s body
to become fish of their own
swimming out into airwaves
carving paths
through his exploding retinas.
Pain steers his look
towards a hedge
on the left side.
On top of the herbal and wooden debris
there floats the light
from the street lamp’s face.
Its head
a mound
turned upside down
and cut in half
droops from a body
made of one long neck.
The bulb sweats an electricity
concentrated behind
a flat and rectangular sheet of plastic.
He repeatedly looks back
towards the pool
but immediately glances back
at the lamp.
It is his pool turned upside down
the bulb replaces the trout
the electricity replaces the water
the oncoming night replaces the surrounding dirt
the relentless mosquitoes
smashing back into brightness
again and again
replace his ambulant look.
Jumping out of this moment is Claudia’s voice
coming from the small gate
splitting the hedge on the other side.


They go inside
to sit at the kitchen table.
She chooses pomegranate tea
he wants green.
The water is poured
and everything turns quiet:
they just sit for a while
staring into their untouched beverages
absorbing their thoughts.
The tea bags get soggier by the minute
floating like dead bodies
bleeding into the surrounding water.
They never take them out
and both of their teas keep on darkening.
Hers starts to resemble coke
minus the fizz
and a persistent grudge bullies her
into speaking:
“Remember that time
you made me so angry
that I didn’t drink anything
for two days
and my pee
was as dark as shit?
Take a look at your drink.”
As he hesitantly looks down
and answers, “Yeah, that’s weird,”
roundabouts of blush light up his face–
it’s as if
her encircled dark red tea
has been copy-and-pasted
onto his face.


She leaves
he waltzes into the living room.
Thoughts hypnotize him
trick his vulnerable heart
and skinny legs
into a talking walk
that circles
around a glass table sitting on a holed
persian carpet.
A rhythm of repetition settles into his
each step represents a different word
leading to the same sentence
drawn in his temporary routine.
It’s a lazy long hike
one of a drunk
or an insomniac
yet neither are applicable to him.
After a couple of laps
he looks over at the alarm clock
the only thing
that makes the transparent surface
not empty.
As his endurance remains high
the black hand
counting seconds
skims over one of the 12 numbers
of that minute
for every step taken
and word spoken.
It is an event of
pure synchronization:


He goes around a few more times
making sure that his intentional
bizarre stride
a kind of military march and chant
weirdly coincides with the clock.
He ends up sitting down
on the right side of his couch.
On the left
an art book rests in bad shape
worse than its owner.
He reaches over and opens it up
like an unlocked door
hiding a secret
that is supposed to be told.
Chance pairs him
with a black and white photo
of an elderly woman.
His index finger approaches
her pale face
a complexion
compatible with the smooth paper.
She has a thin nose
thinner lips
and an eye shape
that resembles the
explosive roundness
of her head.
Retrieving movement
the finger
master of directions and accusations
dances down her neck
and disappointment
once he reaches her fur coat:
the paper
has nothing to do
with what a fur coat
is supposed to feel like
and the temporary moment of forgetting
the deception experienced
from painting
from light
from Claudia
comes to an end.


Victor Allen is a poet living in NYC. You can contact him here 

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