Thursday, November 1, 2007

Coincidence and Photography: Lost and Found

I took some pictures of a large caterpillar that has cocooned itself over our doorway, a kind of threshold over a threshold, silk above wood and aluminum. I can't find the disk with the photos to post, so instead of blogging about autumn yesterday, I decided to get some work done gathering publication information for the acknowledgments page of my forthcoming chapbook, Other Medicines, coming out in January from Redbone press.

Two of the poems were commissioned (thanks to the efforts of Patsy Hicks) by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art for photographic exhibitions, so I had to look up titles and dates. One of the poems was for an exhibit titled An Eclectic Focus: Photographs from the Vernon Collection. Leonard Vernon and his (then) recently late wife Marjorie had collected thousands of photographs from 1840 to the contemporary era, and Leonard attended the reading on August 28, 1999, to listen to poems written in response to his collection. David Oliveira, Barry Spacks, Chryss Yost, and I read our poetic responses as visitors walked around and viewed the photographs, some with our poems beside them. Leonard Vernon was wonderful at this event, and it was clear how much for him the exhibit and our poems in response connected him with Marjorie. He smiled and spoke so fondly of her and of their collecting. I had the feeling that for him this exhibition was not about the pride of owning rare, often very famous work. The exhibition was about their love, and about their time together finding beauty. She lives on through this collection. They live on.

I was saddened to learn yesterday that Leonard Vernon had died the previous day, October 30th, his threshold to cross, I hope, back to Marjorie.

For me it also brought back warm memories of dear friends, of our poems and our work together, of an event that showed how art makes living possible.

Wall Shadow

—after a photograph by Josef Sudek (from the Vernon Collection)

A sign above the avenue is blank.
A window pulls the dark across its pane.
A single figure leans beneath the sign.
Everyone who should be here is gone.
The cobbles bear our shadows down the lane.
The grey walls grind the coruscating moon.
Something else was written on the sign:
“Everyone who should be here is gone.”
Moonlight pools beneath the figure’s robes.
The avenue keeps busy with its cracks.
The pipes bear out the effluent of hope.
Everyone who should be here is gone.
A window pulls the dark across its pane.
The cobbles bear these shadows down the lane.

7 comments:

John Guzlowski said...

Sorry to hear about Leonard, and Marjorie too.

It made me think of Marjorier Eisinger and her husband Chester--friends of mine, long long ago. They loved art, loved woven things and statues. Loved food and books, and martinis too.

November 1 is an important day for Poles. It's the day we remember our dead, think of those who have crossed over.

Thank you for the poem. It helps me think about them. A good poem doing its work.

George said...

I can't remember who said it, but there's the old line: "I could never write a villanelle as I couldn't come up with even one line worth repeating."

You can't say that, Marty.

Manfred said...

The avenue keeps busy with its cracks.

A great example of what you do so well. There's a line from one of your earlier poems that I remember, but can't quote now, that stimulated the same admiration for something well done. Sorry my memory is so poor. Matt

Queen Whackamole said...

A perfect, heartbreaking gemmel.

I hadn't heard that Mr. Vernon died... thank you for this post...

John Guzlowski said...

So, Marty, what's happening.

Did the sadness of this post stop you?

Please--more writing.

Marty said...

No, more the silliness of academic politics, John. Thanks for the kind words, all. More soon.

Andrea said...

I remember this poem. I always like to read (and hear) it.