Looking at Paintings with Animals
Jan Brueghel the Elder paints them two by two playing
flying, lounging, and rough-housing
before they enter Noah’s Ark--
elephants and turtles, bats and birds,
lions and dogs, camels and turkeys--
no sense of foreboding or doom
in 1613, no sense of the coming
days as the world turns and floods
and mankind and other animals stand
ill prepared to perish. What nourishes
us before we finally sleep?
What ark are we waiting for?
Hans Holbein the Younger paints a lady with a squirrel
and a starling—the blackish dark of bird, woman,
and squirrel merging. The lady looks away,
the starling intersects. The year: 1526.
I like the animals she claims for her time,
the meeting of the tame and wild, the face
harboring secrets. The lady’s fur hat
a trapezoid rime hemmed to fit her head,
the whitish shawl on shoulders, her body
cloaked in a black dress. She in communion
with squirrel and starling, all similar
and different, all relevant.
Diego Valázquez paints the head of a stag up-close
and direct in 1634, no noble portrait
of ruminant but one that allows the young
stag to be no one but his youthful silly self,
as naked as a human counterpart. His look frank
and without flattery. Sky half green with storm
and half in cloud frames his head,
no body or land in sight to anchor.
Two in relationship--
subject and viewer, animal to animal.
By accretion and comparison
we come to know something.
Sharon Tracey is the author of three poetry collections – Land Marks (forthcoming, Shanti Arts), Chroma: Five Centuries of Women Artists (Shanti Arts), and What I Remember Most is Everything (All Caps Publishing). Her poems have appeared in Radar Poetry, Lily Poetry Review, Terrain.org, The Ekphrastic Review, SWWIM, and elsewhere. sharontracey.com
The Ekphrastic Review
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