Friday, November 14, 2014

Poet David Wright Dines with Caravaggio

David Wright’s first poetry collection A Liturgy of Stones was pub-lished by Cascadia in 2003. His latest collection is The Small Books of Bach by Wipf & Stock. Poems have appeared in Ecotone, Image, Bluestem, and Poetry East, among others. He lives in Champaign, Illinois, and has taught in the English Department at the University of Illinois since 2006. Link to Wright’s essay “A Few Worries about Being a Poet” here. 

The Supper at Emmaus, 1601 
(above) and 1606 (below) 
by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Two Suppers at Emmaus by Caravaggio

The worm in the apple gnaws the fruit away,

and the dressed fowl the men have devoured

by the time Caravaggio remembers the inn-keeper
and his creased wife, the finer linens

and the pitcher as detailed as the Gospel of Luke,

and the ridiculously large ears of Cleopas.

What fierce blaze gets fired and glazed

within the tender-hearted as a stranger paints
the air with his midrash of pigment and time? 

What light layers enough shadow over years?

I am inventing this last part; the rest you could have 

read or been shown on your own:

Caravaggio once punched a drunk in the head
and saw Jesus as the man's flesh dented

beneath his fist like a warm loaf. For five years,

the stranger rose again and again in Caravaggio's eye.
In the Vernacular Gallery
Art Institute of Chicago
Country Preacher, 1860/90, 
white pine. Artist Unknown.

Hanging quilt and the gazes of the carved half-dozen

prows of ships and this preacher, upright and upholding

the opened and planed smooth Word of God in his lap,

he fixes his hollowed eyes past the book, on a particular

point of sight, devotional turn for the wooden minds

in his care. Or recollects a work song from before the war

and feels its hum in his brow and high cheeks that betray

the grain of southern white pine, deep gouges of chisel

and time. I am praying to him now, that the split in his spine

will hold. That like his arms blessed tight to his trunk, he will

keep his own counsel until the Spirit fires him alive as the free

hand and eye of the vernacular maker whose sermon he is.

Plague of ladybugs, plague of the suburbs 

Gathered in my beard, on your skin,
       in the mouths of bottles.

                               Drink down
their speckled bodies--Mexican beetle,
Asian beetle, domestic bodies--no one
       will say.
                               On my sweater,
       this one, a jewel in a vestment,
       rises away.

The several on my hands
                               I'm flinging

like orange paint from a brush--
                               these winged
               red oils, striated, enameled.

The ends of my fingers a brush--

                       Pollock with ladybugs,
                       Pollock with a canvas of sky.

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