Covered in black paper to hide,
he abruptly sprouted a manic universe
of everyman figures as bouncy as cheerleaders
but as faceless as paper dolls.
Anonymous, urban art in the dark –
laying down fast lines in minutes
after ticket and arrest.
Riding the subway was like touring
a museum on spray paint. Their letters
weren’t homages to self, they were witty notes
of apprehension and apocalyptic
executed in imagery,
distilled into enigmatic language of sign.
His doodleverse would produce hundreds
to point the finger and give it
the epidemic that would claim his life –
a nicely radioactive haul of work.
In death, Haring has become merchandise,
the T-shirts and mugs and such a reminder
that he could be tougher and more credible
than king of refrigerator magnets.
For high art could never deny their origins,
their family resemblance to street art –
hieroglyphs to channel external
anxieties about featureless brute
clubbing featureless victim.
So typical was trampling a hapless crowd
against a backdrop of ominous calligraphy,
an echo of ambiguous resistance,
a retinal charge that announces itself
only when you’re standing face to face.
He unframed canvases, hitched hectic
into every corner, and the eye bumps and slaloms
from one to the next pulsing field.
How enduring his nostalgia,
passed among artists who never arrived
at anything like imaginative bandwidth
and emotional nuance.
Maybe he didn’t have time to doodle places
you would not have thought to go.
[NOTE: Found/blackout poem crafted from a TIME article titled “Cartoons of Calamity,” as written by Richard Lacaye about visual artist Keith Haring’s posthumous exhibit in San Francisco.]