Vintage verse – Musee des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden


Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

by W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Demeter of the Ex-Urb by Devon Balwit

Demeter of the Ex-Urb

No blade, but a bract, rasped edges
ranged towards danger, tip observant,

mistress of spathe, spikelet, glume
and peduncle, I stand my ground,

a Demeter of the ex-urb, a goddess
of the small plot, my fool, a darting

hummingbird, my heckler, a crow,
croaking from the shadowing,

my green fuse stutter-stepping—
paling to the point of guttering,

barbarian weeds already creeping—
and then re-flaring, fierce in a campaign

of ripped roots, a flailing of the blunt
trowel, me blinded by brow-sweat.

(after Cristina Troufa’s painting Espada)

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: The complexity of the images and nod to classical mythology gives this poem weight beyond that of a simple narrative, yet the final line reminds the reader that we are all only human.

From the archives – Hang Son Doong by O.P.W. Fredericks

Hang Son Doong

And the earth heaved a sigh
when I came into knowing
what is yet to come

. . . . . . . .before time was time

I’ve felt the fall of rain
the warmth of sun
as it lolled across the sky
teased my face
and my shallows with life
tender roots
that plucked at my skin
and tickled my soul

. . . . . . . .and you thought to look

tread gently as you go
there’s much much more
you’re not ready to know

. . . . . . . .I’ve kept secrets

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 30, 2015 —by O.P.W. Fredericks

Video courtesy of Ryan Deboodt

tell me again by Julia Klatt Singer

tell me again Singer

tell me again

about the man
with the pear tree
who lost his wife
after fifty-six years of marriage
and how that tree doesn’t know when enough is enough
that last August
he had to prop the poor thing’s branches up
with two-by-fours
it was so laden with fruit.
He gave you a bagful of those pears
and their scent filled the car
even with the windows rolled down.

by Julia Klatt Singer

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem handles grief with a sideways feint—spoken of between the lines, with fruit and movement.

Painting by Julia Klatt Singer

Mary and Venus: A Crib by Jack Kristiansen

Mary and Venus: A Crib

The Renaissance put things
in perspective, painting Mary

as winsome and bringing Venus
back to life. Mannerism stretched

Mary’s lovely neck, twisted Venus
into giving her son an open-mouthed kiss.

The Baroque showed off Mary
as barefoot, Venus as enamored

with her mirror. What could it mean
that Dutch interiors highlighted

the play of light on firm furnishings
and left the young women adrift

in their musings? Any Rococo Mary
would have cavorted, her skirts

fluffing out with a venereal flounce.
Neo-classical bodies conform

to decorum, Mary demure,
Venus naked and disarming.

Romanticism favored energy
and disarray, a rifle brandishing,

bare-breasted Liberty leading
the charge. Realism gave

a frank look to everyday life,
Mary a bather drying off,

Venus a self-assured prostitute
staring straight at our eyes.

Impressionism took easels
outdoors and, later, filled museums

with the lasting impression
that many things, even women,

need exist only as brush strokes.
Expressionism altered vision,

Mary becoming languorous,
provocative, Venus’ hair rising

in a scary flare. Cubism puzzled
women’s violin bodies apart.

Then Surrealism rendered
accurate dreams of Mary

as an earful and Venus
as a chest of drawers.

by Jack Kristiansen

 

Editor’s Note: This is the ultimate ekphrastic poem — a visual history of Mary versus Venus throughout multiple art eras. The ending is particularly apropos for our modern trend toward meaninglessness.

Hang Son Doong by O.P.W. Fredericks

Hang Son Doong

And the earth heaved a sigh
when I came into knowing
what is yet to come

. . . . . . . .before time was time

I’ve felt the fall of rain
the warmth of sun
as it lolled across the sky
teased my face
and my shallows with life
tender roots
that plucked at my skin
and tickled my soul

. . . . . . . .and you thought to look

tread gently as you go
there’s much much more
you’re not ready to know

. . . . . . . .I’ve kept secrets

by O.P.W. Fredericks

Editor’s Note: Some things in this world are too vast to truly comprehend. This cave is one of those things. This ekphrastic poem mimics the incomprehensible size of Hang Son Doong with pieces of emotional imagery (sun, skin, rain) and grounds it within the awe we all feel in the face of such secretive wonder.