by Darren Bifford
Paul and I consider Gorky’s 1944 They Will Take My Island.
This is Paul’s favorite work in the Art Gallery of Ontario.
He brings me to it after we see Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents.
There’s a lot to admire about Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents.
In a way it’s my favorite painting in the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Something about it reminds me of They Will Take My Island.
The soldiers are so intent on killing all the babies, no island
exists in the Pacific they will not discover, nor in Ontario
for that matter. They say people borne of islands are innocent.
No work of art hangs on their walls. History walks around innocent
in circles, saying let’s begin again and again. The British in Ontario;
the French in Quebec, expect for Gauguin who sails for Islands
where he will live naked and gaudy as he imagines men do on islands
civilization skips. Even here under the cities and roads of Ontario
you’ll find tracks and bones: it’s true none of us here are innocent.
Which reminds me of Gorky’s 1944 They Will Take My Island.
I see my great-great grandfather with a cross and level in his hands.
Listen to the crowds roar! There are no tigers in the land of Ontario.
Herod’s soldiers sail ashore. Every creature in the forest is an infant.