Poems by Francis Blessington.
(after John Singer Sargent)
All transforms from ice and fire,
where the lizzatori calve sunlight,
their faces eclipsed in hats,
and frozen sun burns to marble deserts,
pressure-cooked fire to steep palaces of ice.
So the painter used zinc white
for his shadows to lift more sun, more ice
to his paper, where God conceals
even unthawed saints to brighten galleries,
a Babel of snow without ancient paint,
where some ice sculptor repeats, “Sia luce.”
No, no—the painter says—no, his great,
great, great grandfather’s portrait,
was not stolen: it was this tubeless cathedral radio
and the wind-up phonograph with suede turntable, boned
in silvered tubing. “When they robbed Picasso in Paris,
they took but a suit of clothes.” Corinthian
pillars beside the wood altar in the little chapel
are wood too, though painted to black marble.
They remain with the seated plaster putto
with wings and cracked face who saw it all.
They took the now-useless, the used-up, old family things,
the rewired gas-lamp people think they need.
He discovered it all waiting in a local shop.
“While you stay here, love these things. I always trust.
When I paint, out sprouts some great, dead tree.
See that gray antique on the field of gold grass,
so centered and immoveable it can’t be un-rooted and pawned.
When that is stolen, I’ll make it again.”
The old turban lives under the table.
Yes—he is loose change from our bills.
My Shinto fortune is curst:
A loved one has died at home.
I’ll hang it on the pine tree.
Crises in every language, pilgrimaging.
After The War Museum,
we study walking sticks
in the writer’s apartment.
Loving other centuries,
we wish to live in the writer’s shock,
solving desktop situations.
Our slow village’s relentless drive:
barking wagons, red dogs.
You were sick and dying
in there once. They carried
you away in a glass hearse
with bobbed-up horses, trimmed gold.
I want to live in this hotel,
blessed with bottles of water,
tiredness that counts.
My eyes sing coals.
Send for wine.
We come unexpectedly
upon the cathedral’s last façade,
peopled in stone and western shadows.
An army of camera eyes
takes charge. Their synonyms
are lovely. We forgive them.
Francis Blessington has published two books of poetry, Wolf Howl and Lantskip. His poem, “Reflected Absence,” won first place in the World Trade Center NY Poetry Competition on 2009. His verse translation of Euripides’ Trojan Women won the Der-Hovanessian Prize for the best translation in 2011. His translations have been performed at the University of Chicago, Athens State University, and professionally in Boston. He has published verse translations of Euripides’ The Bacchae and Aristophanes’ The Frogs and a novel, The Last Witch of Dogtown.
His poems have appeared in Appalachia, Arion, Cumberland Poetry Review, The Dalhousie Review, Denver Quarterly,The Florida Review, Frank, Harvard Magazine, International Poetry Review, Light, Literary Imagination, New Letters, Offcourse, The Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Southern Review, Yankee, and many other journals.
Blessington is Professor of English at Northeastern University.