Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow

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after Piet Mondrian

Some lines, right angles, and the primary colors
make out of almost nothing something lasting.
He’s found a new common denominator

in the poverty of paint. Sick of the clutter
of the particular, why not try fasting
on angles, lines, and just the primary colors?

Who says that you need God, a dubious smile, or
even lovers always sadly parting,
to find it art? The common denominator

between success and failure, fear and valor,
Russian and German, or you and me, looks something
like these lines and angles. The three colors

were kept cellared and pure, posit the scholars,
against the Great War’s squalor, so he kept painting
lower and lower common denominators,

and as he aged his canvases grew whiter.
After the war came another war, redrafting
the lines, the righteous angles, and the colors
to find the lowest common denominator.