Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Snow Crystal, ca. 1910
Wilson Alwyn Bentley

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How Simile Works

The drizzle-slicked cobblestone alleys
of some city;
                            and the brickwork back
of the lumbering Galapagos tortoise
they'd set me astride, at the "petting zoo". . . .

The taste of our squabble still in my mouth
the next day;
                            and the brackish puddles sectioning
the street one morning after a storm. . . .

So poetry configures its comparisons.

My wife and I have been arguing; now
I'm telling her a childhood reminiscence,
stroking her back, her naked back that was
the particles in the heart of a star and will be
again, and is hers, and is like nothing
else, and is like the components of everything.

Albert Goldbarth

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Women Seated on the Grass, ca. 1880s
Thomas Eakins

The Two Sunshades, 1902
Édouard Vuillard

Monday, December 10, 2012

Adelaide Crapsey

Among the bumble-bees in red-top hay, a freckled field of
              brown-eyed Susans dripping yellow leaves in July,
                             I read your heart in a book.

And your mouth of blue pansy--I know somewhere I have
              seen it rain-shattered.

And I have seen a woman with her head flung between her
             naked knees, and her head held there listening to the
             sea, the great naked sea shouldering a load of salt.

And the blue pansy mouth sang to the sea:
                          Mother of God, I'm so little a thing,
                          Let me sing longer,
                          Only a little longer.

And the sea shouldered its salt in long gray combers hauling
               new shapes on the beach sand.

Carl Sandburg

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Girl with Plant, 1960
Richard Diebenkorn

Friday, December 7, 2012

Untitled, New York #15, 1997, 1997
Mitch Epstein

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Scandale, Paris, 1947
Ilse Bing
Girl in Red Kimono, Geesje Kwak, 1893-95

Girl in a kimono (Geesje Kwak) in Breitner's studio on Lauriersgracht, n.d.
George Hendrik Breitner

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Young Woman Drawing, 1801
Marie-Denise Villers

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Love Sleeping

Life in the throat of my love leaps

though love is sleeping
under the eyelids of my love Look
a dream is darting
as the blood darts in the throat's vein
and love's shoulder warms my cheek
a dream floats to my love's brain

Heart in the chest of my love moves

though sleeping proving
the flesh of love will wake See
a breath is taken
as a dream makes the brow of my love smile
and the face's flower and the hair's leaves
quiver in a wind of love on that isle

where the heart beats now Watch

I will watch for the meeting
of my love with love in the heat
of the dream's full quaking
as love's body wakes in my arms' catch
and life in my chest and throat leaps
though love is sleeping

May Swenson

Friday, October 26, 2012

Road and Sky, 1917
Charles Burchfield

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Autumn Day. Sokolniki, 1879
Isaac Ilich Levitan

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sur le canapé d'argent pale, 1899
Maurice Denis

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Marguerite Reading, c. 1906
Henri Matisse

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Young Farmers, 1914
August Sander

Thursday, September 20, 2012

He found that it was no good trying to tell
what happened that day. Everything he said
seemed fictional the moment that he said it,
the rain, the scent of her hair, what she said
as she was leaving, and why it was important
for him to explain that the car had been parked
under eucalyptus on a hillside, and how velvety
and blurred the trees looked through the windshield;
not, he said, that making fictions might not be
the best way of getting at it, but that nothing he said
had the brute, abject, unassimilated quality
of a wounding experience: the ego in any telling
was already seeing itself as a character, and a character,
he said, was exactly what he was not at that moment,
even as he kept wanting to explain to someone,
to whomever would listen, that she had closed the door
so quietly and so firmly that the beads of rain
on the side window didn't even quiver.

from  September Notebook: Stories

Robert Hass

Friday, September 14, 2012

Portrait of Gerti Schiele, 1909
Egon Schiele

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Kiss IV, 1902
Edvard Munch

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Notes on a Handkerchief's Edge

Like your eyelids' commotion
the blood moves at the nape
the nape of your neck, when down
your back there pours the marvel
your combing reveals.
In my hand the traits
of your heart, memento
of when you were here
in the hand that I bite.
The butterfly encumbering
your sky each evening
with its shadow's
transience, lights on your shoulder
to look like a rose.
Your spotless soul,
your lazy essence of an
angel! Hot as flame
your ear of a tigress
rests against my cheek.
            The fiery
flower lies tattered in the gardens.
You finger the branches. And dive
in a thicket of shade, in love
with the dark.

Leonardo Sinisgalli

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Again, L'Atalante, 1934
Jean Vigo

Monday, August 27, 2012

Venezuela, 1954
Lisette Model

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bather, 1782
Jean-Antoine Houdon

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Problem of Describing Color

If I said - remembering in summer,
The cardinal's sudden smudge of red
In the bare gray winter woods -

If I said, red ribbon on the cocked straw hat
Of the girl with pooched-out lips
Dangling a wiry lapdog
In the painting by Renoir -

If I said fire, if I said blood welling from a cut -

Or flecks of poppy in the tar-grass scented summer air
On a wind-struck hillside outside Fano -

If I said, her one red earring tugging at her silky lobe,

If she tells fortunes with a deck of fallen leaves
Until it comes out right -

Rouged nipple, mouth -

(How could you not love a woman
Who cheats at the Tarot?)

Red, I said. Sudden, red.

A Swarm of Dawns,
A Flock of Restless Noons

There's a lot to be written in the Book of Errors.
The elderly redactor is blind, for all practical purposes,

He has no imagination, and field mice have gnawed away
His source text for their nesting. I loved you first, I think,

When you stood in the kitchen sunlight and the lazy motes
Of summer dust while I sliced a nectarine for Moroccan salad

And the seven league boots of your private grief. Maybe
The syntax is a little haywire there. Left to itself,

Wire must act like Paul Klee with a pencil. Hay
Is the Old English word for strike. You strike down

Grass, I guess, when it is moan. Mown. The field mice
Devastated the monastery garden. Maybe because it was summer

And the dusks were full of marsh hawks and the nights were soft
With owls, they couldn't leave the herbs alone: gnawing the roots

Of rosemary, nibbling at sage and oregano and lemon thyme.
It's too bad eglantine isn't an herb, because it's a word

I'd like to use here. Her coloring was a hybrid
Of rubbed amber and the little flare of dawn rose in the kernel

Of an almond. It's a wonder to me that I have fingertips.
The knife was very sharp. The scented rose-orange moons,

Quarter moons, of fruit fell to the cutting board
So neatly it was as if two people lived in separate cities

And walked to their respective bakeries in the rain. Her bakery
Smelled better than his. The sour cloud of yeast from sourdough

Hung in the air like the odor of creation. They both bought
Sliced loaves, they both walked home, they both tripped

In the entry to their separate kitchens, and the spilled slices
Made the exact same pattern on the floor. The nectarines

Smelled like the Book of Luck. There was a little fog
Off the bay at sundown in which the waning moon swam laps.

The Miwoks called it Moon of the Only Credit Card.
I would have given my fingertips to touch your cheekbone,

And I did. That night the old monk knocked off early. He was making it
All up anyway, and he'd had a bit of raisin wine at vespers.

Robert Hass

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dorothy Norman, 1933
Alfred Stieglitz

Friends, 1930 
Paul Citroen

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lotte Hammerschlag, 1930
Paul Citroen

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Woman in a Rocker, ca. 1945
Franz Klin

Friday, August 3, 2012

Portrait of the Artist, 1878
Mary Cassatt

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mary Macdowell, ca. 1880s
Thomas Eakins

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hair Haven Beauty Salon, Watertown, New York, 1974
Lynne Cohen

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fritillaria, 1915
Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Friday, July 20, 2012

Canyon, Gorge, Arroyo

The seventeenth-century bibliophile George Thomason, whose specialty was seditious tracts, once buried his collection of over 22,000 publications, fearing their discovery by the army. What if he'd died before he was able to retrieve them?

How many other codices
and folios are stored down there,
are held in geologic strata? - pages
that, in trading earth for air, no longer turn.
They're like the minute-lines that mark a clock:
time moves, but they stay unmoved.


My Grandpa Louie isn't only in the earth,
by now he is the earth, is atomically one with it,
and so is all of the Old World sensibility that made him
so mysterious to me: the way he took tea
through a cube of sugar gripped in his yellowing front teeth,
and the Russian tavern songs he'd hum along
to the hand-cranked music box.
The Yiddish-language newspaper that he read, however,
is still being published - barely.
I imagine its latest sad gray passenger-pigeon-of-an-issue
pacing circles on his grave, impatient, waiting to fold
its paper wings and join him in the darkness,
maybe cover his chest,
as when - in life - he'd fall asleep under its pages.


Canyon, gorge, arroyo - we can see
at any cleft in the earth, it's text
on text the whole way down.
It's shelving.
And someone else may tell us that this
is an archeologist tenderly brushing the dust
from a buried line of inscription, or a paleontologist
tending to a row of fossil pocks, but we
can recognize a librarian when we see one.


We think of death as Nothing, as a stillness and a void,
but it's an active, endless hunger:
of the countless thousands
of third-millennium Hittite hieroglyphic documents,
"none has survived for our finding," done as they were
in ink on linen-backed tablets of wood.
In Time's salivas, a thing like that
dissolves like a peppermint lozenge. Occasionally,
a relic does float into the present moment:
we have ancient Incan quipus - stout main cords
and slenderer ancillary threads, on which a code
of knots served adequately as a kind of writing (cousin
to the rosary and fringe of the Jewish tallis).
One, recovered from a chieftan's tomb, is ten pounds
of transmitted fact. Ten pounds of knots,
as if to remind us what it means for a nervous system
to carry our complicated lives.


            And did you dream?
I dreamt. I dreamt I visited
Grandpa Louie's grave.
            You visited Grandpa Louie's grave.
            Did you enter it?
I entered it, I was there in the must,
I wandered the city
architected of bone and the ghosts of electrical pulses.
            And what did you see?
His life. His Jewghetto immigrant life
that had always seemed more distant to me
than the toppled columns of ancient Rome
and the Babylonian ziggurats.
            And did you understand what you saw?
I understood what I saw. At last, I felt at home
in the gutturals of his Yiddish speech,
among the cracked leather straps of his phylacteries,
and the watch fob, and the feathered splay
of chicken-pluck in the wooden bowl.
            You say at last you understood?
I spread apart the shut halves of his ribcage
and I studied.
I could read him like an open book.

Albert Goldbarth

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Window Shade, 1948
Loren MacIver

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blue Beyond Blues, 1968
Harold Weston

Friday, July 13, 2012

Beach at Cabasson (Baigne-Cul), 1891-92
Henri-Edmond Cross

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, 1918
Pablo Picasso

Friday, July 6, 2012

Young Girl Seated, 1923
Georg Schrimpf

Monday, June 25, 2012


Some days I feel that I exude a fine dust
like that attributed to Pylades in the famous
Chronica nera areopagitica when it was found

and it's because an excavationist has
reached the inner chamber of my heart
and rustled the paper bearing your name

I don't like that stranger sneezing over our love

Frank O'Hara

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Amsterdam, 1973-75
Ed van der Elsken

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Interrupted Reading, c. 1870
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Charing Cross Road, London, 1937
Wolf Suschitzky

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Lean out of the window,
I heard you singing
    A merry air.

My book was closed;
    I read no more,
Watching the fire dance
    On the floor.

I have left my book,
    I have left my room,
For I heard you singing
    Through the gloom.

Singing and singing
    A merry air,
Lean out of the window,

James Joyce
Chamber Music

Friday, May 11, 2012

Canzone, 1934
Antonio Donghi

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sunlight, 1909
John White Alexander

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lydia with her Hair in a Net, ca. 1939
Henri Matisse

Saturday, April 28, 2012

O Amor Natural (1996)
Heddy Honigmann

Blue Surround, 1982
Richard Diebenkorn

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Sang

I sang to you and the moon
But only the moon remembers.
      I sang
O reckless free-hearted
                        free-throated rhythms,
Even the moon remembers them
      And is kind to me.

White Shoulders

Your white shoulders
         I remember
And your shrug of laughter.

         Low laughter
         Shaken slow
From your white shoulders.

Carl Sandburg

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Czechoslovakian Gymnasts, San Francisco, 1939
John Gutmann

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Woman with Mimosa, 1924
Pierre Bonnard

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Field Flowers, 1937
Alexander Rodchenko

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Red Sun, 1935
Arthur Dove

Friday, April 13, 2012

Untitled (Crosswalk), 1981
Garry Winogrand

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Untitled (Lighted Dancer), c. 1949
Joseph Cornell

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Isadora Duncan, 1911
John Sloan

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Once and Upon

Cross at the morning
and at waking,
with a mourning for summer,
she crossed the bridge Now
over the river Gone
toward the place called New
to begin her Once Upon.

Once and Upon
daddy long legs
walked in a web of work
for my sisters and me,
as Mother spun round
with silver knives and forks
in a shining of pans,
a wash of mondays
and plans
for our lives ten thousand weeks.

To cross the bridge Now
over the river Gone
toward the place called New
to begin her Once Upon,
in a mourning for summer, she moved
to write her right becoming
and find her true beloved.

Snippets and tags of Gone,
criss-crossed as retold,
beggared the strumming
of fresh rhythms
that should have stirred her becoming.

Once and Upon
she ate the plum
and from a full mouth
disgorged the pit
into her hand
while Mother spun as she canned
peach and plum in season-
the land, holy Mother to
the plentiful fruit.

To cross.
But where should her steps lead
away from the river?

Through a desert she hurried,
thirsting she ran
to reach becoming,
passed three water holes
but never saw them,
so eager was she to reach
outward evidence
of her inward drawing.

Sisters of grace
comely, sea-washed,
with blond shell hair and skin,
whirling with intermittent passion
amidst daddy long legs
and Mother awash
among the underthings,
boys shouting and running,
swaggering and dying
for the sisters' charms.

Tops a-spin in a dying dance.
Yoo Hoo, Fatty! Buck!
Hi, Pete! Hello, old Gene!

Cross at the morning
summer crossed with the beginning
of gold,
a sea of brown leaves swirling.
And no trees bent down
to whisper their wisdom
for her becoming.
Ah! New! Ah! Gone! Ah! Now!
Ah! Once Upon!

Madeline Gleason

Portrait of Anna Akhmatova, 1914
Natan Altman

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wedding, Budapest, 1965
László Fejes