finding the sunset (yellow log challenge)


At our weekly tutorial professor Eliot and I talk about the challenge, and bop, and I show him my poem:

"Absence"

Two men, at least, fell this tree with a cross-
cut saw, the evidence is there, and one,
at least, bucked the limbs, and scaled clean the bark
from the trunk, and then went away, to home
or drink, leaving behind more evidence,
this time, of themselves, and their handiwork.

And this is what he saw, and chose to paint.

Where, outside the frame, is the dray horse
and harness, where the log chains, the peavey?
How far from town did they travel to find
this timberland, what purpose? Surely to
be dragged past its brethren to the mill, to
be buzzed into planks, a reduction of stature,
“how the mighty have fallen,” with no one
to worry the void, like a missing tooth.

And this is what he saw, and chose to paint.

Late in life a man comes home to find what
he never saw in youth, an absence of,
an absence of many things, not the least
is angst, and though some might imagine a
scream at the crosscut’s bite, there was no scream,
only the rasp and breath of men at work.

And this is what he saw, and chose to paint.

~~~

He reads it, and asks, "are you happy with it?"

"No. Yes. No. I don't know. Something's not right. It kind of sucks," I say.

I see professor Eliot flinch at my choice of verb.

We talk about it, its good points and bad. The gist of it is that I have absolutely no idea what the painting was meant to mean. I do see an absence of activity, of what went on before the scene was painted, I saw all that I described. But I brought nothing of myself to it. It's just a list of things I imagined. I don't know anything about logging, and worse, I imagined I knew what Munch was thinking. That's a poetic felony.

We talk about different ways to approach writing when nothing seems to work. He has experience with deadlines, as a writer and translator. He gives me some ideas how to approach this, and after we talk about the other poems I've read and written for the week, the hour is up, and off I go.

I've rarely felt as uninspired as I feel now. Maybe it's the time of year, the post holiday let down, the damp cold of San Francisco in January. Something has me down.

It comes to me as I trudge up the hill to our apartment. I don't like the painting. No, that's not true, I don't like the way the yellow log tapers down to a point. I find it viscerally unsettling. I wish he had painted the scene without the felled trees. I like the forest, what he's done with that. I love the blue sky, and the way it seems to warm the snow. I like the blue-violet shadows. More than anything I like the way, when I look at the painting with my tired eyes, the yellow disk at the end of the log becomes the setting sun.

My sense of "absence" was an honest reaction. I could see the men at work, and the horses. I need to find a way to write about what's there, as well as what isn't.

Terri's home, studying. I make tea, cut up some pears for us, and put some yummy brie and crackers on a plate, and we sit on the bed and work. I have this, and econ and design, and Terri has a bio test coming up.

It's nice being home, and I feel my mood lighten. It doesn't hurt to have the sun come in through the west facing window, a perfect disk of yellow, and the way it makes Terri's hair shine. I could write a poem about her easily enough.

terri, terri, quite contrary
put your cigarette down.

I didn't say it would be a good poem.

I should probably make an offering to the Muse. I hold a wedge of brie skyward.

I put aside the poetry for a while, and do my reading for econ. It seems nicely tangible, especially that Laffer Curve, sexy thing that it is.

We study until dinner time. I call Antoinette to see she if she and Nathaniel would like to come over. We'll heat up the lentil soup Terri made, and make sandwiches, and there's some grapes, and, OMG, potato chips, and we have some wine, and Nathaniel has his puzzles and crayons and paper that we keep for him.

It's a nice evening in, and we have a nice supper. I love watching Terri with Nathaniel. She is so without guile, so comfortable with herself. Her nature is so sunny that she puts the people around her at ease, and kids in an especially sweet way.

They stay until it's Nathaniel's bed time, then say goodnight. We clean up, and have some more wine. This day is ending nicely, and it comes to me:

"finding the sunset"

i love the blue sky, the soft snow
the setting sun i see in you
i love the criss-crossing shadows
in hues of blue and violet

i love the silent sound of men
not at work, i love the sound of birds
singing their late afternoon songs
how i love to imagine the horses

curried and stabled, bellies
full of oats, harnesses hanging
on pegs on the wall, men at home
by the hearth, muscles tired,

knowing tomorrow they'll have logs
ready for the mill, that it is
one day closer to spring, the sun
with that much more warmth

how i love this sunset scene, a moment
caught between yesterday and tomorrow.

~~~

and I know I have, at least, the beginnings of something I can work with.

We get ready for bed. As I'm falling asleep, snuggled up to my sweet girl, saying my silent prayers, I see Munch's vivid colors, the tranquil scene, and it's beautiful and peaceful, and I'm happy.





Poetry by one trick pony The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2015-01-23 at 14:19

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night soul woman The PoetBay support member heart!
This is truly a piece of art!Freestyling is always fun
2015-01-24


Ashe The PoetBay support member heart!
Indeed you have found something in this poem to write a meaningful poem. The give and take of your mind as you work it out is very enjoyable. Well done.
~Ashe
2015-01-23



Beautiful.
You have found something extraordinary in the painting.
2015-01-23