Saturday, December 4, 1982

THE ILLUSION OF LIGHT: notes to a landscape painter (Frank Gannon)

Notes to a landscape painter

Just as I'm beginning to see color notes
the way fog resting on a green-eyed patch of ocean
turns to pale jade, or a wedge of sunlight
carves a bright cerulean wafer of sea,
and cantilevered mountains amidst swells
tease color across its taut surface,

you said, "find a red-tailed hawk circling in the sky.
His cry will make you forget the pain."
What I didn't see was how light belays notes of color
to your eye as you stroke the landscape.
"There isn't anyone else I'm seeing," you said,
and it dawns on me that this light is your mistress.

A web of my hair fell across your face
and you said you couldn't breathe.
A friend once said, "when lovers disagree,
one casts his vote and the other negates it."
No one told me the choices would be so limited.

Our conmingled clothing in a dark pile
at the foot of the bed casts tall shadows
as you held them up, a hooded cloak of darkness
stealthily slipped over the hills robbing them of color.
No one told you the night is for lovers.

At Bridgehaven, I found a hawk crouched on a pylon.
I said, "if he flies away, I'll forget the pain."
But he wouldn't fly away. Dammit!
I had to shake my fist at him and scream.
A hawk is not a feather daisy one plucks petals from.

Now, the dark painting you gave me makes more sense.
Who breaks up with someone on their birthday?
When I looked, it filled me with a feeling of loss
What I couldn't understand, because it wasn't
anything like your impressionist landscapes
but of a fence hemmed in by shadow.

The light peeked out from behind trees
teasing the viewer's eye around the corner, out of reach.
But, a painting is only an illusion of light after all,
just as these words are an illusion of feeling.
Didn't they tell you—if you stare at the sun too long,
you'll go blind?