By Patricia Nelson
Hook for the Masterpiece
The weight of line and shade still hangs. A frame holds the glow they made of it: The kingdom of smoking fuels, the art with its light-craving dervish. Women made of shadow and the world. Brown rats that squeaked and bit them. Crowns of dead metal stamens. Fevers or sainthood that might seize them like a light. On the wall a battle empties like a sunset: Angels, eyes-up bodies, devils wafting. A king’s win burning, stinking of its need to be visible. We who are far from the battle lean toward it like sails white with belief. Saints with a stir of shine on our heads, a smolder of dawn on our palms.
The Garden and the Thorns
—Pony Ride, a painting by Horst Gottschalk The light in the garden holds a boy and the stillness of a small white horse. The boy wears a feather in his hat and turns the small blue circles of his eyes. Beyond the circle of color and light is the unkempt dark of fir and thorns— a strangeness, a tilt as of hills or the marks where the sea wave went that lifts and bends its creatures. And knowing, which is also strange—and cold. The black where wishes rise like swarms. The shadow that bolts when you mount it with your jaunty little hat.
Why the Saints Are Quiet
Home is a primal wind. It rocks as the willows do or the round womb. The saints have found it. They have touched the moon-smooth thread that asks for stillness and gives light. They move as the pliant clouds do, white with memory. The saints are calm in Heaven, sway in its sky like weather. They know why they are there. The saints are still when the stars come close. The stars remember them like the scent-filled noses of animals.
Patricia Nelson is a former attorney who lives in Northern California and now writes environmental and other poetry.