EASEL, PALETTE, LAKE
How to paint the spectrum of light?
An egret’s flight.
She seeks the landscape in her brush—
a silver hush.
Sky’s silent. But blue, flake by flake,
ripples the lake.
And still she paints for painting’s sake—
not perspective, the eye’s blind reach,
but light, and what the shadows teach.
An egret’s flight, a silver hush ripples the lake.
THE AMERICAN IN WINTER
This snow-scape of the South Fork upstream,
its flow constricted by rugged canyon
and January cold—one leafless alder among
cedar and pine standing stark, dark against snow
—each detail so carefully brushed on canvas,
one could imagine hiking to this very spot,
and shiver for cold. This place might be sacred
to a patron saint of winter, who descended
to frigid river, stretching bare arms
to the heavens. But the artist was bound
by a plein-air view; wrapped in Goretex
and wool, rapt between river’s flow through rock
and, overhead, everlasting muted blue.
You started to paint her picture.
First, the smile so sudden as if she saw
a friend she’d never known until that very
moment. Next, the halo of hair like
summer clouds sun-lit by strokes of your
brush. All this from memory. She won’t sit
for your portrait. She isn’t here. How
can you keep on painting someone
who labored with so much heart, a soul
of larkspur and pine, to end up dying
without a friend, a home? dead
of something money might have cured?
Her treasure was a speckled stone,
a crow feather. When words fail
the picture shouldn’t. You put your
brush down. At least you got her smile
almost right, wide as a wholesale yes
to life, its earth-walk a joy
no matter how rough the trail.
Even through January mist and a smudged
windshield, I could see the fixed red-eye gaze.
I was driving home. I was intruder on her
hunting ground, her territory rich with ground-
squirrel and songbird. She sat guard
on our gate-post, hunched under feathers
ruffed to take on the cold. I braked, got out
my iPad, clicked a pic. She fixed me quicker
with that accipiter-gaze; she could take me on.
Safe in my little Honda, I inched closer;
another pic. She didn’t move except that red eye
surveilling everything. Another inch, tires
on dirt—too close. Off she flew, a flurry
of wings too blurred to shoot, iPad or no.
She was gone, done with our land as long as
I intruded. I doubt she cared I stole her picture.
It was smudged and misty—unlike her eye.
STORIES OF BRASS AND PEWTER
They’ve been standing for years behind the wood stove, waiting to be put to use. The pitcher holds dust and ash. Candlesticks laced with cobwebs and dripped wax—generations of dead flame. They whispered in the dark for light, the pitcher crying for water. At last she hauled them to the antiques store. Family history in artifact tarnish. Grandmothers long gone. Hand-me-downs not worth much, deprived of the service they deserved. She left the shop with a few bills in pocket, imagining brass and pewter whispers behind her.
from all sides, cast-offs
telling stories, remembrance
of the past we’ve lost
BEHIND A CORNER MARKET
The consignment shop is full of old relinquished
dreams. Toy soldiers line up in the storefront
window, in parade formation; and the foremost
like a shiny red peacock with a bugle scream.
Are they waiting for a martial overture?
or simply to be bailed out of there, taken home
somewhere to maybe end up in an attic,
marching to a hoot-owl’s call by moon flicker
through cobweb bunting. Until daylight
they’ll be march-march marching their dreams.
THE PAINTED DUCK
She startled me. Quick
movement as I tugged a jam
of dead leaves damming
our creek between rains. I caught
her broken tether. Blue teal—
hollow, fading paint—
a decoy washed downstream to
come aground right here
along with other useless
trash. An old unwanted thing.
She faces upstream
as if to breast the flow, to
feel the current pass
all about her as she floats
on just the thought of water.
—Shao Ch’ang Hêng
The ancient tress
On the bank
And cast a cool green shadow
Ono the stream.
Fly to and fro,
And a single lonely cloud
Drifts through the sky.
Many thanks to Taylor Graham for her painterly poems today, remembering our recent Seed of the Week, Painting! For more about the ovillejo poetry form, see www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/ovillejo-poetic-form/.
And welcome to February, which is National Haiku Writing Month! Write a haiku a day: for daily prompts, see www.thehaikufoundation.org/2013/02/01/its-national-haiku-writing-month OR www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo/.
Congratulations to Laverne Frith on his new book, Estuaries of the Mind, from AuthorsPress. (See www.authorspressbooks.com/book_detail.php?preference=1357 to order.) And congratulations to Sacramento’s Kathleen Lynch for winning a Pushcart Prize for 2018!! See www.facebook.com/kathleen.lynch.1943/posts/10214791562318050?notif_id=1517459246049122¬if_t=nf_comment_story&ref=notif/. For more about the Pushcart Prize, go to www.pushcartprize.com/.
Tonight, Terry Moore sponsors The Love Jones “Best Love Poem” Competition down at Laughs Unlimited in Old Sac., 8:30pm. Or head over to John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis for Troy Jollimore, Heather Altfelt plus open mic, 8pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
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