words: SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

 

cap   rigid   lemon   peer   draw   meadow

 

SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

Like a drawing  by Van Gogh,

I stand rigid in the meadow. I wear my white cap. 

I peel a lemon, and peer at the trees.

I wear my white cap

though the brim is too rigid

for me to bend against the lemon-

brightness of the sun. I stand alone, peer

into the middle distance like a drawing

by Van Gogh of a woman in a meadow.

 

It is August, and the earth is dry. The meadow   

crackles with brown grasses capped  

with seeds. The summer draws 

to a close. Have we yet let go our rigid 

sense of what is real? My peers 

cannot guess. News sours me, like lemon.

 

When I was young, I wore lemon

cologne. I lay in this meadow 

beside a man—my peerless

lover—who wore a Greek fishing cap.

But our bones have gone rigid

with the years. We have drawn

 

living water so long. Now we draw

water grown bitter, like lemon

rind, and brackish, from a rigid

bottle. A butterfly wavers over the meadow

searching for one plant to cap 

with one pale egg. I peer

 

at her with shaded eyes, my only peer

now in this tight-drawn

season, this heated season, capped

with grasses the color of dried lemon  

peel. Under my feet, the meadow 

soil is hard, cracked, rigid

 

with the hard rigidity

of this rainless summer, a peerless

summer of an anxiety that a meadow

cannot know. The trees live on, drawing

their life from deeper water. The lemon

sun beats and beats on my white cap. 

Imaginary Paintings: Poet in Garret, November

POET IN GARRET, NOVEMBER

~attributed to Jan Vermeer, 1703

You see at once that she’s cold,

the way she hunches

over the table in the fireless

room. Light from one small

window slants across her page.

She is half-turned toward you,

her lips are parted, her eyes

focused on a word appearing

just above your right shoulder.

Imaginary Paintings: All Souls’, The Witch

ALL SOULS:  THE WITCH

~The Kilkenny Book of Hours, c. 1410

Outside, a half moon, waning.

Inside she sits by the fire, 

gray cat on her lap.

Her clothes are unremarkable

and her long gray hair is unbound

and mingles with the cat’s fur.

On the plain table, a wooden

bowl of apples. Garlic

and onions hang on pegs. 

A single dove shelters

on a rafter. A sudden wind

blows open the door.

 

 

This was originally for Pentecost, but I think it works for All Souls, too.

COUNTRY WEDDING

COUNTRY WEDDING

~Berthe Morisot, 2019

Oil on canvas

 

Stacked blocks of whiteness 

narrow to a steeple. 

 

A white tent stretches

over blue shade. Shapes

 

of color clothe the guests. 

All around is green.

 

In the midground, 

five children scamper

 

with two yellow dogs.

Close to the frame, 

 

two women— one

in red boots— and three

 

men are playing bocce.

Their shadows are long.

 

Deep in the trees 

a robin starts a song.

ST. MOLUAG

This is more or less a work in progress, but today is St. Moluag’s feast, and I couldn’t resist.

 

 

ST MOLUAG

13th century, artist unknown

Tempera on board

He stands in his thick brown robe

before the church that bears his name.

The sky behind is gray with rain,

earth around all unflowered. 

In triumph, he holds up his severed thumb.

 

Move fourteen hundred years along—

Isle of Lewis, the sky still full of gale. 

A dozen people trail into the stony church. 

We have stood the gales a thousand years,

light in the darkness, singing in the wind.

They comfort the stranger, 

laugh at the storm:

We will stand on until the end.

For more about the church:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teampall_Mholuaidh

 

For more about St. Moluag:  http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/bios/scot_pict/moluag.html

 

 

MORNING NOISE

MORNING NOISE

~Jackson Pollock, 2019

Oil on cardboard

 

 

 

You can hear them, can’t you? Bursts of red and 

white and gray—those pickups early on the 

road, and the big silver milk truck, there, clear 

streak across. The woodchip truck that always 

uses jake brakes going down the hill—long 

black jag. And underneath and around—back-

ground and more than background—a kind of fore-

ground really—are the birds. Can you hear them? 

Sure you can. Rose-breasted grosbeak, redstart, 

red-eyed vireo, white-throated sparrow, 

goldfinch, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, 

and clearest, that woodthrush just out of sight.

IMAGINARY PAINTING

IMAGINARY PAINTING

 

There is no painting here.

No artist prepared

a palette, a canvas.

No ecstasy or agony

of creation.

Nothing was lugged

to a gallery. 

No one returned,

disappointed, to a garret.

It was never displayed

in hallway, drawing room,

library, museum.

It is not real, except

as silence, out 

of the reach of sense,

a whim, a dream.

WARBLERS

~Maud Lewis, c. 1970

Latex on plywood

 

 

Nobody taught her a thing.

Look: the anatomy all wrong,

perspective strange, almost

iconic. But look closely:

that northern parula 

in the lilac bush—iridescent 

blue-gray wings, shaded orange

throat, bright eye, open beak—

you can almost hear him singing.

And the yellow warblers, symmetrical

in the white-dotted trees

framing the red barn.

It’s Spring, they’re saying,

and we’ve arrived.

 

END OF SPRING, 1930

END OF SPRING, 1930

~Mary Cassatt

 

The white-gowned girl is running away

from you. She has curly blonde hair.

Her feet are bare. Her pink sash

is untied and trails behind.

In her left hand she carries a yellow

basket, filled with a blur of green.

To her right, a lilac in full bloom,

each blossom rendered with careful

detail. You can hear her mother

calling on the hilltop behind you, 

but there’s something about the way

the child is moving. You know

she will not turn back.