Carvaggio and His Followers

You are my most favorite artist. Though I know 
very little about your work. Some of your followers I know: 
Mattia Preti, who toiled so hard to so little 
effect (though it was enough). Luca Giordano, involved 
with some of the darkest reds ever painted, and lucent greens, 
thought he had discovered the secret of the foxgloves. 
But it was too late. They had already disappeared 
because they had been planted in some other place. 
Someone sent some bread up 
along with a flask of wine, to cheer him up, 
but the old, old secret of the foxgloves, never 
to be divined, won’t ever go away. 

I say, if you were toting hay on the side of the stack 
of it, that might be Italian. Or then again, not. 
We have these things in Iowa, 
too, and in the untrained reaches of the eyelid 
hung out, at evening, over next to nothing. What was it she had said, 
back there, at the beginning? “The flowers 
of the lady next door are beginning to take flight, 
and what will poor Robin do then?” It’s true, they were blasting off 
every two seconds like missiles from a launching pad, and nobody wept, or even cared. 
Look out the window, some time, though, and you’ll see 
where difference has been made. The song of the shrubbery 
can’t drown out the mystery of what we are made of, 
of how we go along, first interested by one thing and thenanother 
until we come to a wide avenue whose median 
is crowded with trees whose madly peeling bark is the color of a roan, 
perhaps, or an Irish setter. One can wait on the curb for the rest 
of one’s life, for all anyone cares, or one can cross 
when the light changes to green, as in the sapphire folds 
of a shot-silk bodice Luca Giordano might have bothered with. 
Now it’s life. But, as Henny Penny said to Turkey Lurkey, something 
is hovering over us, wanting to destroy us, but waiting, 
though for what, nobody knows. And I shall 
not forget to come again later, much later, to encourage 
this bit of seashore 
because I think it deserves it. It engages me, at any rate, 
which is more than most paintings do when they are taken down 
and out and set on the grass, which impoverishes them. 

In the night of the museum, though, some whisper like stars 
when the guards have gone home, talking freely to one another. 
“Why did that man stare, and stare? All afternoon it seemed he stared 
at me, though obviously he saw nothing. Only a fragment of a vision 
of a lost love, next to a pool. I couldn’t deal with it 
much longer, though luckily I didn’t have to. The experience 
is ending. The time for standing to one side is near 
now, very near.”