Marina Abramović’s Gaze

Marina Abramović’s Gaze | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2010. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I find her seated at the kitchen table at two a.m.,
her red dress a large heart in the dark’s chest.

I flip the light switch: she stares past the empty

chair across from her, over the swan-necked faucet
curving moonlight, then beyond the bay window

where time and space continuously trade places

above the slow-rising slope of my neighbor’s roof.
It’s expected that I sit, that we submerse ourselves in

each other’s presence, the blue silence of two a.m.

I sit. Her gaze shifts, softest of shovels, a tender
excavation to see the why of my sleeplessness,

my wandering in socked feet, pulling moans

from floorboards, moving air into other rooms.
A cricket chirrs behind the refrigerator: gold spark,

gold spark, gold spark, goes quiet, cold dark.


You, Lisa. Exam table. Swivel stool. Taupe cabinets.
Framed Degas print—pastel ballerina, folded in half

to grip her foot. Door swings, doctor enters. So young.

Wheels the stool behind. To sit closer to your wife.
Faces her. Leans toward. Speaks to. Her face, yours—

how they change. Cloud shadow without the clouds.


In my city there comes the sound of someone’s
death wish, of reckless velocity, the car engine’s cry

thinning with distance. From Marina, this distilled

empathy. Warm gold fire. And this conflagration
of time, of seconds becoming ash. The hush of that:

sparks springing out from nothing, then returning to it.


Late evening. Livingroom couch. Lisa, you. News on
mute. Don’t blame you. Tortoiseshell cat alert

against the sliding glass. Tail twitching—something

outside, alive in that dark. Third drink in your hand.
Careful. Her hand swirls inside her hair, gathering.

Palm open—to show you. Little brunette bird’s nest.

She rises, resolute. You follow. Roll your old
office chair into the hall. In your hand, scissors

shine. Careful. She sits, head already dipped,

meaning—Begin. Your eyes tell. Pink, glossed.
You sway, careful, snip. Dark brown locks fall

slow. Scraps of shadow land randomly. Now

clippers, nape to crown. Peach white shock of scalp.
Such gentleness—how you brush away the filaments

crosshatching her forehead. Your unhurried

hand considering her skull. One fingerpad skating
across stubble. Around the hair whorl. Clockwise.

Again around. Don’t make something of it—this

spiraling outward. Don’t imagine me gliding into
your bedroom, my nothing-like-a-heart dress

whispering on the floor. It cannot whisper. Just as I

cannot lift the bedcover. Slip in like an open door.
Cannot hear the soft ocean of her breathing

or feel the flame of her body beside mine. Look—

I’m not here. I’m saying good-bye. Vanishing
from your mind. Cloud shadow without the clouds

uncovering your moon-blued world.


When I climb in, scoot close, she stirs: my girl,
my gold, my glow, my dream inside the dream of my

life, these seconds, these breaths blessing my neck.