George Bellows’ “Both Members of This Club (1909)”

As per Assignment: A Compositional Analysis in Three Sentences
First, you will notice the white of the white
man’s body and its curve that is part of the spiral
of their violent encounter, a round of violence
repeated in the ring of men who are not
as men might be, but as these men are,
with their blood lust leers and no
care for loss or win, but only eager
for this rampant whirl of ruin to continue, rise
gyre, and climax again and again and again.

Now, before you turn away in disgust
and horror at this raging rumba, note the rigid
plant of the black man’s solid right
foot that thrusts a leg straight-line
at the angle where their arms apex
a triangle, which implies the vaguest stability,
except that it’s collapsing off canvas
right over the shoulder of the referee,
a collapse echoed in the foreshortened buckle
of the white man’s right knee and in
the expectant leers around the man-ring.

Finally, there are the horizontal
ring-ropes that are supposed to contain
but that vibrate and vanish in the back-darkened
unlit arena, a dark that in-your-faces
this sweat-shine carnage and, especially, the white
man’s blood smeared, pale crumple.

“George Bellows, Both Members of this Club” was written when, as part of a mid-life new thing project, I was studying art and drawing. The college, was trying to engage students in the writing process in all their courses. So the instructor of the design composition course asked us to “describe the composition of a painting of your choice. You must use at least three sentences.”

This poem appears in Have, a book of poems by Lee Robison, which will be published the fall of 2019.


One thought on “George Bellows’ “Both Members of This Club (1909)”

  1. I read the words in an e-mail before logging on and seeing the painting. But, I “saw” it before I logged on. Your words are amazingly descriptive and your three paragraphs are three sentences… not even run together sentences! Truly beautiful! I look forward to your 2019 publication.

    Liked by 1 person

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