Poem: On Viewing a Skull Painting by Georgia O’Keefe

I love Georgia O’Keefe’s quirky paintings and perspective.  She did a lot of work using skulls, which seems quite natural. New Mexico must yield all sorts of bones in the mountains and deserts. Just as she studied and painted flowers, so she did the same with animal bones and skulls. She was very prolific in her work, painting a skull or pelvis in many views, often accompanied by a flower or other desert item. Many didn’t like her bone paintings, but that didn’t deter her in the slightest. Even her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, was initially critical of them. He later relented, as did most critics. To find beauty in death and decomposition and to create art that is somehow mesmerizing and thoughtful is quite an accomplishment.

This poem is from my chapbook (Erasing the Doubt (c) 2015, Finishing Line Press). It is hidden amongst just a few of these wonderful paintings.

okeefe and skull

Georgia O’Keefe and cow skull

 

 

bob-steer-head.jpg!Large

Bob’s Steer Head by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1936

Cow's Skull with Roses

Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1931

 

 

 

On Viewing a Skull Painting by Georgia O’Keeffe

 

  1. The Artist’s View of the Skull as Form

 

The sinuous curve
hollowed circle
smooth chalky bone
worn smooth, it goes
beyond the form
behind the slow dip
of the arching eye
twisting and curving
back on itself

 

2. The Skull’s Perspective

 

At first it all felt wrong,
reversed, bent forward
in a geometric embrace
of mass and space,
the brush stroke
through the hollow eye
that will never see,
beyond to the delicate shell
of the brain
that will never again think,
moving slowly
into that shadow of light
the sky insinuates itself in color
and it is there
that you alone can wander,
deep inside the form that is me

 

Georgia O'Keeffe, Ram's Skull with Hollyhock, in 1935

Georgia O’Keeffe, Ram’s Skull with Hollyhock, (c) 1935

deers-skull-with-pedernal.jpg!Large

Deer’s Skull with Pedernal by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1936

 

 

Gusts ~ Tanka #1

Gusts Summer 2016

 

I’ve had the good fortune to have three of my tanka published in the latest issue of GUSTS,
NO. 23, Contemporary Tanka, Spring/Summer 2016 (Tanka Canada). This is the first time my work has appeared in this beautiful poetry journal, and I’m most grateful to the editor, Kozue Uzawa.

I’ve decided to post each tanka separately here on my blog.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 12.01.34 PM

 

 

Brushing Your Hair

1-IMG_1141

 

Brushing Your Hair

In the last month you ask me a favor.
Will I brush your hair when you have passed?
You seem to want to greet whatever comes
looking your best. I give my promise.

Each day when I come home, I offer
to brush your hair, but you say no,
maintaining the independence
you have always shown.

Later, in hospice, I no longer ask.
I hold your hands, rubbing lotion in,
skin so fragile, like a butterfly wing.
It is time now to make the last ablutions.

I clean your face and brush your hair,
your sleeping eyes flicker
under paper-thin lids, pale blue veins
tracing their course across them.

I imagine your mother tenderly holding you,
stroking your cheek, watching you dream
in her arms—her newborn daughter
with milky breath.

Ninety-one years separate us, your two watchers.
One joyously bringing you into the world;
the other sitting silently in the dim-lit room,
keeping watch over you through the night.          

 

1-IMG_1133

 

 

The poem, “Brushing Your Hair” is from my chapbook, Erasing the Doubt (c) 2015, Finishing Line Press.

 

 

 

Blood Moon (Tanka)

Blood Moon Tanka

A plea for ending hatred:

This week the news was filled with the grand and rare beauty of the appearance of a Blood Moon eclipse and the absolute horror and non-sensical murder of Christian students in Kenya by Islamic fanatics. When, oh, when will the world stop hating?

“Early Thursday five shooters from the Somali-based al-Shabaab terrorist organization swept through a university in the Kenyan town of Garissa, shooting Christian students. They knew who to kill because they ordered students to recite an Islamic prayer. Those who could were spared. Those who could not were shot dead, about 147 so far. Police killed four of the terrorists and captured the fifth.”    (from the Wall Street Journal)

Note: This beautiful photograph of the Blood Moon is not mine. I found it through a google search, but it’s exact origin is unknown. I thank the photographer whoever he or she is for creating such a beautiful capture of this event.

Frosted Rosebud

(Photograph © 2014 by Harald Illsinger)

(Photograph © 2014 by Harald Illsinger)

Frosted rosebud
caught in the night,

Awakening to the fog
of a December dawn.

This sweet pale rosebud
delicately iced over,

Thin slick of frost
lightly brushed on

As if an angel chose
to paint, capturing

The morning’s canvas
where season changes        

To season, autumn
turning into winter,

Short days giving in
to long nights of silence

As your fragile calyx
gives you up to the day.


old_pocket_watch_buried_1774093Many thanks to photographer Harald Illsinger for allowing me to use his beautiful photograph, ‘Frosty Morning,’ (c) 2014)