2017 Venice Biennale

U.S. Pavilion Features Mark Bradford’s First Poem

Bradford's first poem.ARTNEWS

Bradford’s first poem.


Engraved on stone plaques flanking the entrance to the U.S. Pavilion is the first poem by Mark Bradford, the artist chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. The poem, I am told by a representative of the pavilion, provides a kind of key to the pavilion’s narrative. More about the contents of the pavilion later, but for now, here are Bradford’s verses, transcribed below and in the accompanying image.


I mean nobody likes to admit it

Somebody threw me out of my house

They told me it was my mama

But let me tell you somethin’

The hands dragging me to the cliff

(And I kept my eyes wide open)

Were not the hands of my mother.

When I got up

My foot was broken.

Limping through the ruins of a

Burned-out promise

There stood Medusa

Mad as hell

I looked her dead in the eye

And knew her.

She hid me inside her crown

I was quiet, I was safe


Watching her turn men to stone

But in a windless calm

Black shades

Hidin’ money-makin’ cargo

Stole me out to sea

In the belly of a great dark boat.

Let me out, let me out

Damn! I should have gotten out at the last light.

A stone man can’t hear.

The lust of these men would only be

Satisfied by black gold and the new world.

But when you ask me,

All I remember is walking

All I remember is falling.

© 2019 ARTnews Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. ARTnews® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.