Monday, April 22, 2013

To a Poet (Such as Myself) Writing a Poem on a Painting

            It stands still long enough
and requires no commitment.
The sea shanties and the stone bridge
and the striated evenings
that burn black in the hills
are not illusions, nor does the oak bending
indefinitely have words that are human
and wounded. You can gain solace
from the zinc-green inferences of the river,
but the stiff passages that seem glued
to the surface and suggest cruelty
are depictions of the light.
The wind rummages through the alders,
and the near hysteria of the leaves
where the branches stall
and fork downward is fallow
and as random as the clouds.
            You seek doorknobs
on the crust of a rainbow,
but the plaited forefingers
of the washerwomen who couple
harmoniously with the water
are almost lost in the glaze.
Equivocal like a cluster of stems, 
they mean more to you than intended . . .
the swollen inlet
that wheezes around the skiffs
and cakes mud on the morning
is a shallow blue.
            You glance down the ridges . . .
the broad dabs of sunlight
and gray horizon
are the hours of deception
where the minutes lose impact
and settle like dewdrops on their bonnets.
            Nothing is discomforted,
nothing displaced.
You move in and out like the dust,
you speak cleverly . . .
the round nuances
that disturb no one
and are preternatural
in their attachment to color
have events of their own.
The wall, where the falloff
levels out from the corners
and declines to keep still,
is too material and earthbound,
like the paint, and requires one's presence.
It lacks line and has a way
of sagging beyond your intentions.

(This poem first appeared in 
The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review.)

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