Two Children on the Seaside Rocks
To paint the blue sky with storm clouds
threatening, or the foreground of rusty sea rocks
and pale water held between them, shimmering
with reflected sun—which did you choose first
as you set out the oils, stretched your canvas?
Or did you start by posing the two children
on the large boulder halfway out from shore,
their white aprons, soft blue jackets, and straw
hats catching the sun—the boy wearing
a faded tie, the girl with hand to mouth,
while you, perched farther out on the rocks
at low tide, easel precarious, strove to celebrate
that day, that place, and your children—possibly
my great-grandmother or great-grandfather--
solemnly staring at you through shaded eyes.
The rocks striated brown shot through with moss,
the weathered boathouse and dock at low tide,
the hazy garments blowing on the clothes line
strung between two trees behind the outhouse—
did you know, how could you know that you
were catching time in a sieve, netting the light
for me? How could you know that you were
stroking hope across a canvas, framing it in
gilt that shines across a century, inviting me
to sit with you that day in gratitude.
This poem first appeared in A Prayer the Body Makes, Kelsay Books, 2020.
The painting is by the poet's Great-Great-Grandfather, Jonathan Bradley Morse.
Penny Harter’s work has appeared in Persimmon Tree, Rattle, Tiferet, and many other journals. Her more recent collections include A Prayer the Body Makes (2020); The Resonance Around Us (2013); One Bowl ( 2012); and Recycling Starlight (2010). A featured reader at the 1985 and 2010 Dodge Poetry Festivals, she has won three fellowships from the NJSCA; the Mary Carolyn Davies Award from the PSA; and two residencies from VCCA. For more info, please visit: pennyharterpoet.com
12/6/2020 10:11:05 am
I love how a poem can enter dialog with a painting and the conversation stays with them, and not always the poet and the painter. I love that effect!
Alma Cole Pesiri
12/9/2020 09:44:44 am
another of your wonderful ekphrastic works that could have been a slice of my childhood - and that makes me smile listening to your words
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