VOLUME ONE 1400-1700
BY ALEATHIA DREHMER
For my mother Sindee, may you finally have peace
When I first started writing these poems it was on a lark to see if it could be done. I had always loved art my entire life and was envious of those with pure talent and inspiration to paint great works of art. I was not so envious that I couldnâ€™t appreciate the skill and hard work it took to create such wonders. As a child, I remember watching my mother sketch trees from the park across from our apartment and do illustrations for childrenâ€™s books that werenâ€™t written yet. She had a bag she carried all of her art supplies in and I remember for a long time it was an extension of her personality. I would watch her drawing and images were born to the page. I thought she was magic. These days I try to create images with words never having gained her skill or assurance. The poems in this collection are about paintings that I love. They are from the point of view of either the subject of the painting or someone in the room with the painter, sometimes as the painter him or her self. I wanted to try to understand what it was like to live in these ages.
Copyright 2014 Aleathia Drehmer/Crobird Productions. No part of this electronic book may be used in any other way without written permission of the author other than brief passages used in review. All photographs are copyright of the artists and images were obtained in public domain. These images will not be used in any type of sale or for financial gain.
Aleathia Drehmer is the former editor of Full of Crow, Zygote in my Coffee, Durable Goods, and In Between Altered States. Currently she is the art editor at Regardless of Authority. The beginning of her career was full of production and publication, this portion of her career is about gaining skill and reflection. She lives in upstate New York with her family.
This is a Crobird Production.
Antonello Da Messina Virgin Annunciate, 1465 You in your blue veil with all those mysteries tucked underneath clinging to each strand of chestnut hair. Godâ€™s words on your tongue, the world you left behind in your nubile heart. You canâ€™t look me in the eyes when I mention that one day down by the river before you gave your soul to a faceless man. Your fragile, crooked fingers elongate to stop the truth from hitting you; to stop the lambs from bleating; to stop the world from getting in through the hem of your indigo covering.
Fra Bartolommeo Savonarola, 16th century In the bleak room with your hood a shroud, your head floating on arrogance into the edge of your mouthâ€” powerful and knowing. The great hooked nose smelling out the indecent thoughts on the street. A mermaid could swim in the caverns your cheek create. She would not impress you. She would not win your coal black heart with her iridescent scaled skin. You are up to your neck in you. There is no room for error.
Mario Albertinelli The Visitation, 1503 I will tell you a secret close to your mouth. I will whisper it into the creases where your laughs live while you clutch your delicate hand to your breast, the other one warm to my palm.
Andrea Del Sarto Portrait of a Young Man, 1517 The un-carved block between your fingers articulates in ancient tongues. You are listening, waiting, feeling for a vibration that can rattle the senses. I watch you touch this stone like a woman, tracing its surface as if it were the alabaster skin of a lover. I watch from the cornered shadows with breath held, waiting and wanting to be sculpted. My heart careening out of my chest, its persistent thump echoing off the cold studio walls, the rustle of my skirts alerting you to my intrusion. You turn your head and hand me the solitude of your cheekbones and the pain in your eyes. I can do nothing with them; I can do nothing with this crippled heart.
Hans Baldung The Three Ages of Man and Death, 1530 If you could see into the future, you’d never move forward. One glance would contain more truth than any soul could handle. The owl at your feet watches me. He warns me to shut my mouth about all this futuristic knowledge—warns me to keep my time machines to myself. But I see your lonely baby’s face, placid and sleeping. I see you turn into a bitter, questioning woman beneath the yellow moon coveting what you are not willing to give. Further still as an old woman, defeat hanging from your breasts, from the wrinkled jowls of your face as you link arms with death. His sands of time dripping through the hourglass at an alarming rate. You see what you have wasted. It is written between the spaces of my breath. You can never go back.
Cristofano Allori Judith with the Head of Holofernes, 1619-1620 The brocade of your robes are laid out in variegated shades of persimmon as the light leaps around the room. You are a Turkish delight by proxy with pale-skinned eyelids heavy and speaking justice. I do not know you but I want to feel my lips against yoursâ€” want to cut my flesh on the rubies embedded there. I want to taste the bitter victory tucked inside the cheek and wear your power like a second skin. It would tell me to never trust a woman.
Gioachino Asserto Christ Healing the Blind Man, 1640 Grandfather Grandfather Who is this man? He is the lord, my son. I am scared. I do not want him to touch you. I do not want him to put his finger in your eyes. I do not want to carry this stick, child. I do not want to miss seeing your face in the sunlight. I do not want to miss your grandmotherâ€™s smile another day. I want to be a whole man just once more. Grandfather Grandfather Hold my hand, Iâ€™m scared.
Jean-Honore Fragonard A Young Girl Reading, 1776 Each crease of her tangerine dress swarms with light from the window. It is hungry to drive out shadows, much like my heartâ€”ruffled as the bow at her breastâ€” which calls me to plant seeds with my lips upon her tender cheek, oblivious. She is ripe like spring and more delicate than crystal. My eye is drawn to the subtle curve of her rogue small finger, a derelict from the bounty of her body; her lips part, breathing in the words of her book. How I wish I were but the ink on the page that captures her.
Thomas Jones A Wall in Naples, 1782 One long white stocking hangs from the balcony swinging its toes, brushing the tree tops, brushing against the murderous beige wall. Bricks birth through the stucco, holes left from weather and persistent birds each perforating the sanctuary of the stockings owner. I wait for her to push through the door. I wait for the window to throw its sash. I wait for the sun to cease its brutal pummeling. I wait for the stars to give me a taste of silk in my mouth, for silk tearing against my teeth.
Caspar David Friedrich Monk by the Sea, 1809 There is nothing God can tell me that is more powerful than this. I stand on the lips of his creation jagged and worn by atrocity. I can hear the roar of his heart beckoning for change as it fills his throat like ice. I have no other vision than his, standing behind the lenses of his eyes enrapt by the blue. There is nothing God can tell me that is more powerful than this.
Richard Parkes Bonington The Undercliff, 1828 They have left the child on the shore like driftwood washed up from rough seas. He is limp, wrapped in crimson swaddle, his father leaning against the cliff engulfed in the silence of loss. He canâ€™t help but stare out at the indiscriminate ocean. Her lips ready to drink the souls of the misfortunate. The father notices the violet turned skies against the looming white stone face, looking for a way to climb up, only to throw himself down again.
Ford Madox Brown The Last of England, 1852-55 The seas are rough as our boat pulls out farther into the oceanâ€” farther from my beloved white cliffs, always the beacon. I must go where my husband takes me. I am him and he dreams of land void of rain; a place where the sun is hard upon the cheek and work a bounty in the pocket. He holds my gloved hand in the cold wind. Our thickwoven coats not enough to battle natureâ€™s wrath; not enough to warm the union to its rightful place. My magenta hat ribbons fly against his dour chest as we stare our happiness away, as our love withers and falters on a dream.
Sir John Everett Millais The Blind Girl, 1854-56 What do you see Jolie? I can hear the ravens in the field pulling worms. I can hear the breeze against the grass. I see a charcoal sky, Matilde. Across it runs the most fantastic rainbow mirror, the large one duller than the small one, and yes, the ravens are scattered about with heads bobbed in long amber strands. What do you see Jolie? I hear the donkey bray in the ditch and the cows with their cud by the far roadside. I hear the wings of a butterfly. I see purple columbine, Matilde. The pooled water from the rain sits at our feet; the ground a red clay that matches your skirts. I see the roves of the houses yonder by town. What do you see Jolie? I hear the rustle of your hair against my chin and hear your breath go lightly into the hem of my veil. Your elbow squeezes the accordion on my lap to sing hushed songs. I hear your tiny heart beating-beating-beating. I see you, Matilde. You with your face of angels and hair like a fire and lips pirate-stolen garnets from the queenâ€™s crown. I see you Matilde, I see only you.
Honore Daumier The Laundress, 1860 A few more steps my pretty one, come quick, the night sky wants to fall on our heads. The river is closing its eyes, the sun our maman is sailing away to dance with the other side of the world. Some more steps sweet girl and you can rest your legs and sing me songs while I hang the mistressâ€™ pretty gowns. We will dream together of a castle papered in moonbeams and filled with loaves of bread as big as arms and we will eat until our bellies fall asleep. A few more steps, ma fille, a few more.
Frederic Bazille The Pink Dress, 1864 On the stone wall Martine sits in her pink dress striped with white but in the shade it looks like heavenly Easter candy. Her black apron hangs rumpled, still fresh with flour from the kitchen where she has come to breath in the morning hills in her stocking feet. The houses in the valley take in the sun, Martine knows they are all rolling over in their beds facing their lovers with foggy heads from the nights wine; falling out of dreams into desires for warm bread and hot coffee. She waits awhile longer. She wants to see their desires rise up through open porticos into the pale spring, into the arms of her imagination.
George Frederic Watts Choosing, 1864 My sweet wifeâ€” fair of face ringed afire in ginger hair more electric than summer sunsets. Why do you crush me so? The button of your nose buried deep in camellia, inhaling a life I cannot give you; my jealousy tougher and greener than their waxy leaves. In your hand, you clutch the rosebud that is my heart, against the black silk ruffles from your dress. It is as close as I will ever come to being enough for you. I can never be wild enough to tame the mustangâ€™s beauty in your chest, never free enough to watch you bloom
Gustave Courbet The Wave, 1870 I am a pebble in this torrid sea. I am a grain of sand awaiting transformation. I am tiny atoms of salt among the others. The sky rumbles lashing its thick tongue at my face, molesting everything pureâ€” divining heaven to destroy it. I am the gull in full sail, hovering. I am the fish jumping torturous from the drink. I am the black of the painterâ€™s brush on the darkest night. The sea mocks the sky like fighting brothers. Their fists iron dervishes, their hatred equal to their love. No one can save me now.
Edgar Degas Melancholy, 1874 He sat here once, in this divan, his shoulder leaning against the burnt umber velvet. I would watch him stare out the windowâ€” the light on his face delicate but carved deep with shadows to one side. I always wanted to put my lips there in that darkness on his face, in the melancholy of his breath when he didnâ€™t think I was listening. I am here now, my cheek pressing into that place, smelling his linen shirt while my insides turn on each other like foes. No amount of wishing will take this knife from my memory or this lust for shadows in all the wrong places.
James Ensor The Intrigue, 1890 They stare at me from behind masks their eyes hollowed and hideousâ€” only the baby shows its innocence of malice. I am the stranger here crouched close to ground. They are strangers to the universe and all my nightmares shall flash their faces like a silent movie that plays behind eyelids in the hours when the body should be slack and quiet and I will scream so no one can hear me.
All photographs or representation of paintings are the rights of their makers. These photographs were taken from the public website Wikipedia except the following: Bartolommeo’s painting from artrenewal.org Asserto’s painting from wga.hu Bonington’s painting from amazon.com Ensor’s painting from artboom.info
These poems have not been previously published online or in print.
2014 Aleathia Drehmer/Crobird Productions
Poems written about paintings from the point of view of the subject or the painter.