The Artist

Erik Rittenberry
3 min readFeb 25, 2022

“…if he is an artist, he will be compelled to make sacrifices which worldly people find absurd and unnecessary. In following the inner light he will inevitably choose… poverty. And, if he has in him the makings of a great artist, he may renounce everything, even his art.”

~ Henry Miller

Disillusioned but alive,
he saunters slowly
through the haze of hysteria
in an age of a pretentious

He’s a man these days who
communes more with the dead
than the living, a man who finds more
beauty in the shadows than the light, a
man with empty pockets and
a bulging soul —
an offbeat dreamer,
an artist
a malcontent
to the eternal fire of his
poetic defiance.

In the petty hours of the light,
he holds his cards close to his chest
and does his best to compromise
with what’s been given. His hat
sits low to disguise the eyes
of an exile, forever roving the forlorn
streets of a hijacked future
the tide of his ancient blood
beneath disintegrating flesh.

Most nights, you’ll find him in his old shack
on the outskirts of the civilized world
sitting in the mushroom glow
of a midnight candle
with a vintage hardpack
in his hands. When he reads
he no longer agrees or disagrees
with the sentiments of the dead.
He’s at ease among words, a curious
spectator stirred by the lyrical upchuck
of the collective unconscious.

The priests and pundits and academics
are no longer served by his attention.
He’d rather meditate on the paintings
of Van Gogh, Hopper, and Andrew Wyeth
than to castrate his senses with the
senseless sermons of the day.

The bloodless lust of the
over-civilized eye had always
sickened him — their idolatry
of appearances, their exaggerations
of purity, their incessant need for
glittering illusions to go on living.
Never re-examining the
underlying deceptions
that sustain their lives, they live in the
clutches of cliches, their voices
dull and tremulous, their minds
easily susceptible to the assault
of the most ludicrous

He owns very little and holds no delusions
of duty and status and causes. Out of his
deliberate austerity he’s bestowed the
ultimate silence needed to create
from the deepest crevices of
his ancient soul, transforming
dream to flesh,
triumphing over the
manufactured illusions
of a frantic era.

Possessed by some daemonic being
higher than himself, there he is,
alone, as the world burns, working
in the dark, forging in the shadows,
stretching his sensibilities to
the brink of madness, divulging
his whole soul to the destructive force
of reality, beautifying the lies
that lead to the ultimate

He’s the awakener,
the emancipator,
a defector of the
human race.

He’s an artist.

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