The Best Material for the Artist in the World
Albert Bierstadt considers his critics
I’ll break my easel into fire-scrap,
knot my brushes into a duster,
then scour the day in Washington Square
listening for gossip rich enough
to gild a plot. From a farmer’s limp,
a deacon’s leer and jurist’s frock coat,
I will meld my hero and pen him
into a sea of inky troubles.
Who would decry his federation?
But if I know yarrow by the Platte,
deer browsing an aspened park at dawn,
nameless peaks jagged as a pike’s mouth
and paint them under the massing sky
of a glorious storm they call me
an assembler, a confectioner
false to truth and nature, thus to art.
In New Bedford the sailors all know
Ahab’s tale is no biography.
Is he a lie? Forged from injury,
rumor and imagined fire, he rides
his blindness toward every soul’s abyss.
Where’s truth then, in rigor or in rave?
Ensemble is not pastiche, by God.
Finalist, 2017 James Applewhite Poetry Prize
Published in the North Carolina Literary Review - 2018