Jasper Johns, Pinion, Lithograph, 1963-1966; after Elizabeth Bishop

Hang a wire beneath a spread of plenty.
Choose a specific word with a meaning
No one quite knows. Diagram yourself
As ruler, thermometer, ambiguous
Cans of soup. Painstakingly
Test the temperature of the invisible
Cake in the baking pan.
Set the timer again: when it buzzes,
take the cake and run with it.
Crash the wedding. Rub
Your body on the page.
Say you don’t understand.
Foot, foot, knee, hand, hand.



Jasper Johns, Untitled, Encaustic on linen, 1996

Give me a map in the shape of a bird.
Give me a thousand amoebas, pulsing.
Give me blue. Give me a blood-stained postcard.
Give me backwards. Give me everything false.
Give me a flock of dimes, a school of pennies.
Give me two boys made of circles & squares
Kissing. Let it never come to an end.
Let it abstract. Let it grow everywhere.
Let it circle & circle & circle.
Let it speck the ramshackle fire escape.
Let it prick, spackle, grow tense & fickle.
Let it past tense & paper clip & gape.
Let it want, let it let, let let unplanned
Kissing. Let it never come to an end.



Jasper Johns, Untitled, Encaustic on canvas, 1992-94
Jasper Johns,
Untitled, Spit-bite etching with à la poupée, 2012

Your art burns me—
                                          No, you burn your art,
The paint molten, an idea mind-melded,
Reworking beeswax into art apart
From yourself, a map of all that you’ve held
Close, and far, so far, reheating the mind
And letting it cool, a galaxy stained
Onto canvas—
                                          No, I’ve left you behind.
And still your spit bite seeps into my brain.
Your blueprint: blood cells, handkerchief, ladder,
battle scars, vase, stars. Stick figures going
                                          Now we’re stuck in this gray matter.
I am red, and you are blue. We’re sewing
band-aids together. Everything’s unclear.
I want to be far. I want to be near.


Reuben Gelley Newman (he/him) is a writer, musician, and library worker based in New York City. His chapbook Feedback Harmonies is forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press in November 2023. His work is available or forthcoming in Salamander, Ninth Letter, Afternoon Visitor, and Tyger Quarterly, among other journals. A Co-Editor for Couplet Poetry, he’s on Instagram and Twitter @joustingsnail.