Saturday, February 22, 2014

Florida Poet Mark Kerstetter Swims with Cézanne

Mark Kerstetter steals time away from restoring an old house in Florida to write poetry and make art out of salvaged wood. Says the poet: "My passion has always been for the arts. Some of my earliest memories are of drawing and my most pleasurable school memories are of writing verses and stories and sharing them with others. During my teen years I worked in the family business, painting in oils the woodcuts that my father made." Kerstetter's poems have appeared in Fickle Muses, Connotation Press, Evergreen Review and other journals. He is the former poetry editor of Escape into Life. Please visit him at

The Melancholy of Departure 
Giorgio de Chirico, 1914

The Melancholy of Departure

Privileged to be a lone witness
yet not granted access
to eat of the fruit or secure it
against assured decay,

A stage abandoned by actors 
(arrival unimaginable)
like a made bed awaiting a dream
a bed made by robots made by men
in locked rooms where
fluffy clouds of smoke
or steam send signals to those
who don’t know how to read—

The echoes of memory
a brass ring in a dream
eclipsed by shadow
rising like dew and
in the day air.

Standing Girl in Plaid Garment 
Egon Schiele, 1909
Standing Girl in Plaid Garment

She stands, forever: the refuge of art.
Standing for she who dances without ceasing,
under my skin.
Plaid or calico—any splash of color, however bright—
compliment to her cat black hair.
The artist liked to use a ladder to fix his bent
and twisted models
but for standing girl he built a column,
Eiffel tall, to climb up with the eye
and down, then up again,
as I look up to you, cast
down as I am.
He quivered his line—anticipating the Spanish influenza
—along the arm,
giving a sensation of life.
You, all porcelain and grace, had
no quivers.
—You only sent them through my
flaming flesh as I gazed on
with a thousand eyes.
The model’s eyes are closed.
Right. What need has she to see once she knows
all eyes are on her?
My Siren eyes are poison.
With slender fingers curling in to anchor her
—embryonic—until birth to a new day
of womanhood
(no chance of a touch)
in imitation of an Italian icon: Blessed Mary.
What thoughts fire in your brain
as I burn one thousand and one?

The Bathers, Cézanne, 1898–1905

Swimming with Cézanne

Cézanne, whose archetypal bathers dally beneath the branched archway of an indistinct face, could not stand to be touched. I met a guy who attended a party at Governor Rockefeller's mansion. Seeing him eye a Picasso, Rockefeller took the man's hand and placed it on the impasto. “Feel this,” he said. The guy delighted in telling that story, the cry, I touched a Picasso! implicit in his tones, but I couldn't get away from a sensation of hardened paint on my fingertips. When I hear the words earth tones I think of every tone on the earth, and like to cut “and the” out of the phrase man and the environment, like a tag out of a T-shirt, then lie down on unbleached linens to turn the fine glossy paper with its color reproductions. You will argue that I am at one remove from the paintings. True, up at the museum I can merge with other anonymous viewers. We sway like a colony of sea fans, careful not to bump into each other, to keep our responses to the paintings concealed behind pallid, placid masks. But when you get to be too full, like a sponge loaded with water, you must close your eyes, or rush out to stock a solitary space with flowing paint. And without a word, you shut the door tight.

broken circle
dive into the pool
virgin face


  1. Congrats, Mark. Some beautiful writing here. Love-"Standing Girl in Plaid Garment".


  2. All of these are just exceptional, Mark--and full of your own squint of versatility--I remember the Chirico one well, but the others were a delight to encounter today. So glad to see them all shared here.

  3. absolutely wonderful, Mark! beautiful poems! Congratulations to my favorite Saint Pete neighbor!

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