Van Gogh, The Potato Peeler, 1885

Potato Peeler
The dark palette, the potato
with two hands clasped around it,
the blade held like a palette knife:

a potato peeler, whose
oblong hands grasp,
whose downward gaze beholds.

The brush skirted the canvas
in blue and gray. Only a shadow
on the wall hints at russet.

Still the rough hands
suspended in motion
draw the eyes.

The knife, the axis
of this canvas.
As if her hands too

emerged from the dark soil,
the light reflecting off her knuckles,
like eyes rooting for light.

Simon Marmion, A Choir of Angels, ca. 1459

A Choir of Angels: From Left Hand Shutter
The angels, suspended in the sky, float on wings shaped like bats’ wings.
Creatures of the dark, perhaps, or bearers of light or song, where dark seeps in.
There should be light and stars,
and wide-opened eyes
on upturned faces. Even the angels’ eyes squint,
as if the light of flash obscures their vision.

Think of the long fingerbones, stretched skin taut
like the membrane of an umbrella,
and the wing, all sinew and bone, creating lift.
With each wing beat, a breath.

And yet the velvet pastel robes, in A Choir of Angels,
curl like mermaid fins, or like the feet of bats
which can neither stand nor bear weight.

Creatures of the dark, creatures of the deep,
dark of cave and ocean trough.
Choirs of bats sing
and let their voices ring and echo.

Think of the bats entering their grotto
to hang suspended from a rafter
to feed their young milk.
As if the angels are saying:
this world, and everything you know about it,
will be turned upside down.
How eternity hangs
suspended in a mother’s arms;
swaddled in a mother’s wing, the bat pup nurses.

Think how love can overturn the world,
like the bat mothers who give birth upside down—
So too in the face of darkness, we roost and feed.

Give and Take

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The pure note
of the triangle
is weightless
yet hangs
on bent steel,
while the moon,
with no light
of her own,
bends light
to illuminate
a world.

Like flint on rock
love mirrors
and multiplies,
transforming
inert matter
into fire.

And like the moon
and her reflection
or bent arm of steel
and sonorous wave—
whether with you
or without you—I’m never
entirely yours, even
in your arms,
nor can I be
entirely my own
when we are apart.

Ayre

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You are the air that I breathe.
When I am winded, you fill me.
When I forget you, you shape my lungs
and mold yourself to fit its contours.

You are the air that I breathe.
Without you, I cease to be.
With you, I burn like a tongue
of flame or wick on fire.

When I exhale, your breath races
beneath my fingers and courses through my flute.
You are the air that I breathe,
and together, we are a song.