Winslow Homer’s Sharpshooter
Homer knew the horror
of a war not at all civil
that marked the start
of modern war unfair.
A captain described
the job of sharpshooting:
“only to watch and kill.”
Stationed in tall pines,
a sharper’s telescopic sight
could kill one mile away.
Sometimes a soldier,
abruptly fell dead.
“With everything as silent as the grave
here would come one of those rifled balls
and cut a hole clear through you.”
Winslow Homer’s Near Andersonville
Homer was among the few who grasped
that the Civil War had three sides,
that slaves stood at a terrifying brink
shirts of grey or blue could not define.
This woman at the doorway
stands on more than one threshold,
and she is thinking, thinking, thinking
about her difficult world--
as, in the background, Reb soldiers,
their red flag drooping on a windless day,
march a long line of Union prisoners
towards the hell hole of Andersonville--
a shift in plot that does not,
for the prisoners
or this worried watcher,
Winslow Homer’s Home, Sweet Home
Irony’s at home here.
Ever so humble, indeed,
are the tiny tents of residence,
where a pair of soldiers sadly listen
to a regimental band,
discernable in the distance,
play the most popular of songs.
The soldiers’ thoughts
wish away the war,
as they hear and re-hear
the bitter sugar sweet
chorus sound and repeat.
There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home.
Winslow Homer’s Artists Sketching in the White Mountains
Landscape artists must be
part of what they see.
Homer’s wry joke here gives us a line
of daubers in the midst of White Mountains--
each nattily dressed
but not at all a picturesque,
intrusion on the scene--
each with easel, palette, and umbrella--
unlovely against a lovely horizon
of clouds, mountains, and flowers.
The last of these sketchers
is Winslow himself
with his characteristic hat and mustache
and his name signed
on the backpack behind him.
That this is an occasion
for painterly camaraderie
as much as artistic productivity
is evident on the far left
where a bottle of wine
nests in a stump cleft,
the sun’s set.
Winslow Homer’s Bridle Path, White Mountains
Back from Paris, Homer chose a new path.
A woman riding high in White Mountains
becomes his largest canvas,
and a place to pose a newly special friend.
He sketched a tourist on the trail. In studio,
his model is Helena on a chair.
On canvas he lends her a special glow.
She is for him the fairest of the fair.
She likes Winslow and loves his wit
and knows he sets her on this trail to star
in a tenderly affectionate drift
of thought: a bridal plan, that is, far
from what she wants from her master in art.
She knows this rocky ride may break his heart.
Read our interview with Joseph Stanton about his ekphrastic book, Moving Pictures.
Joseph Stanton’s poems have appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review, Ekphrasis, Poetry, New Letters, Harvard Review, Antioch Review, and many other magazines. He has published more than 600 poems in journals and anthologies. His six books of poems are Moving Pictures, Things Seen, Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban Oahu, Cardinal Points, and What the Kite Thinks: A Linked Poem. His other sorts of books include Looking for Edward Gorey, The Important Books, Stan Musial: A Biography, and A Hawaii Anthology. As an art historian, he has written about Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, and many other American artists. He is a Professor Emeritus of Art History and American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Information on his most recent ekphrastic book can be found at: https://www.shantiarts.co/uploads/files/stu/STANTON_MOVING.html
4/3/2021 11:16:57 am
Written by one who knows ekphrasis inside out. (I have your Imaginary Museum by my side.)
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