ART SPIEGELMAN (still alive)

We must never forget
the black-vested cartoonist,
Jew (this is important),
with his Shakespearean mane
receding on a middle-aged brow,
who invested a scraped living
of Raw scrawlings with biography,
not a single pretty picture in a world
of Earth Days and plastified scalpelwork.

Hardly forty years after
a Swastika rain
and in Free America
a new whitewash by Degrees,
the slop of revisionism
pouring loudly into classroom troughs
and ears: 'there was
no Holocaust,
an exaggeration of death
camps and body-pits.'

Underground Art begs
for you to differ,
proffers a cat-and-mouse fable,
cartoon fabrication
that reeks authenticity,
ash and Zyklon ink on paper
lacquered with cassette-
bundled dysfunction.

His brush pains
oral history, captured
between one manís fingers
and forearm,
the numerical exposure
of his father.

The artist breathes out as ugly
as the story itself -
impatient, lazy, self-concerned.
All this he pencils, too,
so you do not mistake him
for a hero. This is not epic,
but a comix book.

He adds the x himself,
as ashamed as you
are of the craft - hopes
the new stem will somehow lift
his words above the screentone glasses
society likes to wear
us down
      with
You, of course, are not fooled
by switch or explanation -
Itís still a comic book.

That this comic/x was given Pulitzer status
makes you hem and haw;
with ennuied condescension,
you remark it did not win the Prize
proper, but only a "special citation".

The message is stronger than both
his shame and your bemusement,
an ugly picture from an Ugly Period,
where you cannot be dulled by distance
or mere words and your attempts at imagination;
where the wandering eye is not antiseptic reel
offering cold documentary,
theatrical intermissions as an excuse to
letís all go to the lobby.

No, here is Artís co-mix, a mingling of the self
and the world around him, captured in the
expressive transfer of eye and ear to hand.
The Jew becomes naked before you,
a twisted emaciation of the artist
gasping both the history and his story,
dealing with a father he couldnít stand
but whose tale needed
cartoon shoulders,
a place to stand on.

Sure, there is a minefield of war
books; memory banks with bulging endurance
accounts. Does this make
a tale of two survivors,
one of Hitlerís kiss and the other
of a fatherís branded shadow,
any less?

When reading this,
how can you miss the weight
of world worn through;
why do you
see only cats and mice?

2002 -- (c) Frank "damonk" Cormier



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