The Poetry Society of Virginia group wrote for an Ekphrastic Day visit to VMFA. As you may know, ekphrastic means poetry inspired by art.
STUDY FOR HOMAGE TO THE SQUARE: TRANSMUTE
A square yellow box,
inside a square aqua box,
inside a square box, slate-grey,
inside a square box, russet.
a lush, blotched
All four exactly centered
at the left and right;
all four heavily sunken
at the stripier bottom.
The set of them encased
in a very slim white border,
dead even on all sides,
like the thought of a frame.
There’s an actual frame also:
silver. And a cream-white wall
it hangs on, which becomes
a seventh box, though not square.
And around it, other boxes:
three more walls, this room;
its mauve carpet; its beige ceiling;
whose lights cast boxy shadows.
And hung beside the painting,
a square, colorless sign,
that is the exact size
of its anchoring box,
the yellow box:
center right, an arrow;
above it, left, a word:
And the arch and the pillars of the pont de Grenelle, My Paris, if I squint, is here.
See, obscuring the foot of the Tower, that little black smear?
That’s the Statue de la Liberté: we’re back behind her right shoulder,
across the Seine from the Île aux Cygnes.
LE PONT DE GRENELLE ET LA TOUR EIFFEL
those dark and pale blues at the horizon line? They’re clear as well.
Though it’s the demolished bridge, of course—
not the plainer, stiffer one there now.
But then the whole scene has a vanished grace,
or perhaps a never was grace, a painter’s fiction of pure surface,
of a splashed pastel paradise of sapphire skies,
and dim, light figures dissolving into it.
1912, huh? Two dark, slim, swaying trees
framing its world like gates. Messieurs, mesdames, this way, please,
into a gauze innocence. Mount my gold floating carpet:
here, down center. Watch out where
the blue smudge of your poodle
melts into my pink pavement… Bonnard
seeking less to capture a time and place than to blow a fat bright
bubble of it, and release it, into a burst of light.
–Derek Kannemeyer, July 18-20, 2013
Goose Landing Mask
(19C Yup’ik Alaska)
This is how close I can come to being
the goose without benefit of rebirth.
This is how I disappear the girl I am
and unearth eternal memory,
and take on goose properties.
–or will I, like a child having her face
painted at a fair, fail to look out new eyes,
but stay me?—
This is an opportunity to walk on sand
with lovely red webs and free self
of a girl’s golden handcuffs. Am I honking
because I love Jesus? No—this is my reminder
of when soul took flight after the raped body
died. My feathered arms reach up for blue sky.
Open, obscene, opalescent bloom
wavy ruffle of rainbowed, gold glass,
fragile, greedy, vain vase,
no fleurs touch you.
Your blurred beauty
was obsolescence from conception.
Flattened and lacquered squares of sharkskin,
dotted denticles now smoothed and glued to ebony,
a buffet beyond bounds,
the French feed.
Your dorsal fin like a fairy’s wing,
bronze, distraught mermaid,
face hidden in curve of arm,
your long slim tail wraps and winds
around a noveau lamp of tearshapes.
As you shelter beneath the the shade of a nautilus shell,
only a base brute would illuminate your sorrow with incandescence.
–3 poems by Julie Wenglinski
A nameless client digs in his pocket,
no longer interested in the flesh,
more intent on rummaging for cash,
while you, eyes closed, naked, sprawl
in the chair, too weary to care that
minutes away is the next.
Now eyes slit, panning the room, you
note its garishness: raw broken plaster
hanging off walls, torn linoleum, dry-
rotted, covered in grease a half-inch thick.
Strange odors assault the nose—you
want to bury your face in the blossoming
gardenia bush skirting the front stoop.
A burst of hot air breaks in through the
open window, briefly stirring your thoughts.
Sick of this fishing trip but out of habit,
you reach for a moment in another life,
one with genuine ecstasy, not faked,
where your painted lips hug a rich cigarette—
but more than this—seeing the entire you, nothing
dropped out—a billboard of complete success.
The familiar knock breaks the spell.
You hurl glory days to the floor, watch
them dissolve over the morning’s tread-
marked news, baggage claim stubs from a
forgotten bus trip, and five ten-spots offered
without concern. Glancing toward the bathroom,
its claw-foot, rust-stained tub sparks the mind
to flash a kind of Virginia Woolf escape. No, no,
no. You struggle to get up, forbidding
the suggestion a toehold.
Wesselmann Has Left the Building
(Montreal-curated show at VMFA, July 2013)
Men are from Mars,
Women, from Venus —
Quebecois think so
In Wesselmann’s work.
Men love their cars,
Women, men’s genius.
So Montreal’s show
Has nude gals that lurk.
None are modest
As they smoke cigarettes
In collages that reveal
More than they cover.
Females are hottest —
But where’s another sex
That he didn’t conceal —
Painting one after another?
The genie’s in a jar —
Lid cov’ring the penis:
Wesselmann’s not here —
He must be with Venus.
Sunset Nude with Matisse Odalisque
(Tom Wesselman – 2003)
Wanda in repose on Polynesian Isle
gazes at passersby on beach,
wonders why her friend Lucille,
pale with bleached blond hair,
covers flesh and shaves arm pits.
Inhibitions Wanda did cast aside
when first she stepped on South Pacific isle
and tasted fruit as succulent as her breasts.
But where is Paul Gauguin?
Does he seek another Bali nude
to paint his Odalisque for Matisse?
Such delights she enjoys each tropical night
when breezes blow on senses exotic.
So, where is Paul Gauguin
that he may be seduced again
by voluptuous tits and hairy hot arm pits,
to paint with rapid strokes of brush.