CLAUDE MONET GOES TO WORK
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
These Winters had been extremely
Cold. Le givre, the frost, covered
Every morning, demanding the Seine
To be still, quieting the landscape
For days. There were no birds at all.
Camille was gone; a mist in the grey
Swirl that was all of Vetheuil that
Year. There was always the river.
It seemed to carry the most elusive
Of Colors for brief periods of the day.
This was a good place to look at without
Thinking. The ghost trees away, across
This frozen place would become translations.
Painting. The days passing. The ice finally
Moving changing into floes. Painting.
The sun trying to move the season.
Painting denies language and all
Mortal sounds. The Winter mutes
All things further into silence. Years
Later this time will have no appearance
Other than landscape, a view, an object.
It would take Monet years to paint
The river. The sunsets, the ice breaking
Up finally the coming of the Spring,
The palette changing, the light lengthening,
Apple trees in blossom by the water.
(Camille Monet, Monet’s first wife, died at Vetheuil on
September 5, 1879, at age 32. )
1923 AND 1938
EDOUARD VUILLARD PAINTING
It was the rooms that mattered.
They were the weather embracing
The figures, the glitter the spirit
Festoons itself with as it embraces
Time, the objects, the shadows opening
To reveal intimate spaces, everything included.
Washing his hands, Vuillard looks
Into the mirror, into the room,
The walls are covered with paintings
Of paintings, a chance to see
Them as they were, still becoming
What they would be, still changing.
Memory works this way, passage by
Passage. We are in the middle
Washing up, looking into a mirror
Reflecting the entire room, reflecting
An open window, reflecting our image.
This time it has become the painting.
We recognize the figures as reason enough
To make these complex observations.
Trying to say everything. This is how it was.
This is not remembering. “Here is that
Very chair you see. You are having tea.
Form that same cup she holds in the
Picture. She was delighted to see how
The painting showed many things she knew.
She has long since died. That
Room you see is no more, even
The building is gone. I come in here
Often to look at the painting.
This is how it was. It is like talking.”
PIERRE BONNARD AT LE GANNET, 1932
It was now 9:00 A.M.
The light would be entering
The bathroom just now.
The way the trees outside
The window caught this time precisely,
Bouncing it over the walls, mixing
It with the surface of the bath
Water. This was the time to paint.
Over and over again particular
Transparencies in the flesh sustained
Great challenge, stopping time
At every occasion, saturating the room
With trinkets of pale tints, quick
Necklaces precipitated by the season.
Again and again, each time without
Remembering the last, he moved
The paint across the canvas.
Each mark an instant only. This
Time exactly. This time exactly.
He sometimes thought the yellows were
Like singing, then not, then pattern.
The figure moving through them,
Rising, bending, claiming all the space
Object by object. Even once Pouette
Entered the room, lay down on the rug,
Waiting for Marthe to finish
Drying herself....Bonnard surprised
At the momentary intensity of his red
Dog, swirled against the grey-blue tiles.
(Poette was Bonnard’s dachshund;
Marthe was his wife.)
A VISION OF BORGES
I was in Missouri, the green
Hills outside Warrenton with
A stillness about them, rocks the
Color of Weinheimer dogs
And with their same color eyes.
In the middle of a glen
I saw da Messina’s angels
Holding the body of the dead Christ,
His limp wrist touching the cheek
An angel presents to the dead man.
The points of their wings attenuated,
The light became crippled in October
When everything seemed to us
So clear, became clouded,
Now abandoned and still, with
The lovely rocks piled just so
To hold the glow coming from
The body. I could tell no one.
That night, Borges appeared to me
In a dream. "I saw you in the
Woods.” He said, “I will tell no one
What has happened here.”
I am no longer able to dream.
The quiet invades my room
Thinking I am a lover, touches me
Where my love rises through the lateness
The hour presents to me, telling
A story I stand unable to explain
In any other way than this imagined
Dance to music leaking into the room
After one A.M. and here I am, darling,
Sitting on the edge of the bed,
Unable to weep or smile or
Recall how I even am allowed
To be here with everyone,
Feeling proud and erudite and
Perfectly silly that I may walk
Through these places without being arrested.
It seems, always, we are unable
To understand much of what happens
To us here on this floating rock.
I for one, am glad that music
Seems to be moving through me.
I think it is our blood moving as
A new Covenant, given
To us for the remission of
Sins, and as part of that
Covenant, we may have communion
With everything we encounter.
What do you think?
Thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's painterly potpourri!
Don't forget the Sac. Poetry Center lecture series that begins Feb. 16. Only $99 (10% off for SPC members). $65 Mix/Match Pass (any four lectures you wish). Or, $20 per lecture. Runs Thursday evenings, 7:30-9pm; Feb 16–April 5. Proceeds benefit the Sacramento Poetry Center. Contact Tim Kahl (916-714-5401) for more information. Here is the schedule:
Feb. 16: Joshua McKinney — "Bolo and Bullshit: The Other T.S. Eliot"
Feb. 23: V.S. Chochezi — "Poetry Collaborations: Sacramento and Beyond" [Gary Snyder and Tom Killion, Electropoetic Coffee (NSAA and Ross Hammond), Poetry Machine (Mario Ellis Hill and friends, Fo'Shange, Straight Out Scribes) and much more]
March 1: Molly Fisk — "Women Poets: Friendship, Critique & Support"
March 8: Emmanuel Sigauke — "Contemporary World Poetry through International Poetry Web"
March 15: Bob Stanley and John Allen Cann — "The Blab of the Pave: Rhythm, Texture, Silence and Other Elements of Post-rhyming Poetry"
March 22: Judy Halebsky — "Japanese Literary Traditions in West Coast Poetics"
March 29: James DenBoer — "Kenneth Rexroth: The World Outside the Window"
April 5: Tim Kahl — "Surrealism and its Academic Discontents"
Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.
—Painting by Antonello da Messina, 1475