Issue 154, Spring 2000
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.”