Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sargent's "Street in Venice" Ekphrasis Exercise

This is a set that I did for an Ekphrasis class at Wheaton fall semester 08 with Prof. David Wright. I came across them a week or so ago, and I kind of like them. Ekphrasis means that music or art is involved in the generative process. It's a very fun way to write-- it helps your imagination. I really like this painting because it seems so full of possibility. Sargent is great at painting women, and there's a lot of movement in his work-- to me, his paintings seem full of stories. In Ekphrasis, you decide what the stories are. It's art about art, playing together. 

It all Depends on the Sky
—after John Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

Without the sky
we cannot tell
if it is afternoon
dusk or morning,
if the men loitering
in the alleyway
prepare the morning meal
or make bets at cards.

We do not know
whether or not
to show concern
for the young woman
in the rustling white skirt
lost on the Calle Larga
dei Proverbi. It all depends
on the sky—will the two
huddled in the doorway
follow her or forget her
as soon as she turns the corner.

Angels in the Alley
—after John Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

Once I heard the story of a woman
and two angels in an alleyway,
and the space around this Venetian girl’s
cloaked frame is just wide enough
for her to be flanked on either side.
I think that is why she clasps her hands
together in front and sets her face straight—
she knows. The man in the doorway can see them.
His wormlike eyebrows are lifted
so they brush the bottom of his hat,
and his mouth is the shape of an apricot.

A Wrong Turn
—after John Sargent’s “Street in Venice”

It’s so easy to get lost
in this city of bridges.
A cloak is not enough
to create safety in the pulse
of the Venetian girl who is
as light on the stone street.

Where is her father,
her uncle, or cousin
that she wanders
in the skyless scene.

The streets are wet in patches
and someone is always hungry here,
a wrong turn.

Sargent’s “Street in Venice”
—after Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind”

I, too, have pulled a dark cloak
around my shoulders,
and on other nights roamed
barefoot behind the chapel,
hair rain-smeared to my face.

I, too, am familiar with the eyes of men
trailing the current of my steps
and have kept my gaze low.

No comments:

Post a Comment