|Jan/Feb 2007 Poetry|
The poet opens Norton's Anthology
to mull over "Why I Am Not a Painter,"
a poem by O'Hara. She suspects the painter
and poet start at a similar place, an indigo
chamber, reverberating, a shop of sounds
and color, beginning as an interior view
with still life, oranges and sardines, for example.
Over a cup of tea and sectioned oranges
she contemplates paths she might take,
writing in longhand to slow her thinking,
a walk through the neighborhood compiling
images, a long trip by rail to soak up train
mystery. She turns two pages to a poem
of the painter and the sea. The subject
is too grand, she thinks. I know over-
painting can lead to mixing, like the tides,
one great wash, stirring up the sea bottom,
making mud of pigments or words. Worrying
that subject may rush her, naive, she begins
with nothing, having been thrown in the deep.
Fifteen pounds at birth, my uncle grew
into a petite quiet man who came home
from work, peeled off smelly socks and left them
on a radiator in the kitchen, and, on the counter,
specimen jars and caged rabbits
he used in his lab work.
Comfortable George let his brood rule;
three cyclone cousins and my Aunt Dot,
an irrepressible woman never at a loss
in her sprawling house with large bedrooms;
one with four double beds and six kittens
in a closet shut off from their mother.
In the living room Grandmother
soft-pedaled hymns, while in the weeds
wild dogs howled in holy matrimony.