His solitude was broken in November (mud-
brown earth-month, swirling toward shallow
hollows of no-color, wavering in the deprived blue-
black depths of the bowl) by the chance arrival of
John LaFarge. Half-known, insular, shady,
indigenous, igneous, indirect sketch of trade-wind,
somewhat Parisian, eccentric, kind, unkind,
a man of nuances, streams in the grass, heady
tempered instinct. Shut your eyes and see. Open
your ineluctable, indelible nine-pin Santa
Marias, bowling toward a sudden infant – a
new content! Only... a lamb – alone, in a pale green
spring-cropped meadow – like a white upstart
crowning a green map! Paint, painfully, what you see.
Painstaking, to capture the exact luminosity
of time of day – settled, gravitational, there, apart,
still. His four legs fanning, relaxed like a Pushkin
on the rock-strewn sward of Paradise Valley, sloping
so gradually (through medium transparency)
to the seablue with pendant cloudbank. Begin
again, a new sheepfold. Early, with birds,
before sunrise: where the little navicella twirls
solitary under shadows of Berkeley's
Seat. Melancholy, gay, in the quiet: whispers
of cedars – motionless – high up – over salt hay.
He sets up a little shack in the cleft cliffs
for storing his brushes, clay; goes off – stiffs
the world each day for this. Every day.
Every day his eyes hold it – the round whole,
the spiral – hold to it – bear down upon it, finger-
painting, until it comes back – figured – grounded
in geometric shades – a squared bowl.
Paint what you see. Seal it in clay, cuneiform,
a royal seal. Seal it forever. Dichten = condensare.
Condensation in the air, the dense sea air =
rain, rain – precipitation – disinterred, disintegrated
storm of particulars – held in the hand until.
Before your eyes with the tenderness of a scent.
Vague blur, flight, pervading – lent
only a moment, gone. Breath over soil,
the loam, fresh till. Breath-wind of salt.
Sealant for clay, mordant.
hovering. Manifest, without fear – this colt
of cobalt Paradise. Spotted with various stains
or with a mixture of different kinds of stones,
you will be able to see in it a resemblance. . .
adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains,
wide valleys and various groups of hills.
You will also be able to see divers combats
and figures in quick movement, and strange
expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes. . .
What you see, meanwhile. Brady figures
on a ground. Bag of corpsegas sopping in foul brine.
LaFarge stiffs a world of stiffs – mine.
Of the various colors
other than blue, that which at a great distance
will resemble blue most closely will be that
which is nearest black. Out of his shovel hat,
stovepipe. Gun-gray metal. Prince
of pain. The shadow of flesh
should be of burnt terra verde.
By sea-bord, dog-merde.
underfoot – breath of air,
incongruous, ground of your shaping
clay. Composed compost, a ring
unseen, hovering there, somewhere. . .
for indeed flesh is difficult to render;
this unctuous white, even without being pale
or mat; this mixture of red and blue which
imperceptibly perspires;. this is blood, and life,
which create the colorist's despair. . .
thousands of painters have died without knowing
flesh; thousand others will die without feeling
it. Pain is what you see. Prepare your
clays. Rise early, before sunrise
and civil wars. LaFarge was there before,
in Paradise. Under Berkeley's Chair
and the Hanging Rock – sophisticated,
wise, scrupulous (for a while)
and hungry. And look – there lay
the calm lamb, peaceful. Eye
perpendicular to the ray
of the painter's unselfconscious smile.
There, that particular day, only.
Once, in Paradise. Gently
the horsegrass flickers in his hand (awhile).
Paradise Valley, near Newport, RI