Poem of the day

Portrait of an Art Historian

by Joe Dunthorne

She clicks. The projector beams

The Cotton Exchange in New Orleans, 1873 

across her dining room wall.

She checks her notes, winces at the simile:

 

Degas pulls our gaze to the gent

keeping book in the back room,

the windows hang like guillotines.

 

She's revamping an Impressionism lecture

that's older than most of her students.

After thirty years, her projector's a house pet,

squatting at the end of its leash. She clicks,

it draws a blank. A slide is missing. She stares at

The Spot-lit Square of Uneven Wallpaper, 1973.

She remembers choosing the pattern

from a stack of remaindered stock:

her first attempt at DIY. The sheets overlap;

rose stems splint where they ought to meet.

An aesthete would cringe but, as her cow-licked

fringe stands to attest, she is not so afflicted.

 

Her thumb is attuned to the undergraduate

attention span. She clicks again. It's Manet's

maid at the overstocked bar,

for whom she still gathers sympathy.

 

Baring her wrists, saddened and bored

despite the spectacle. A gentlemen

addresses her bib of pale skin

for a flute of champagne and a clementine.

 

She plucks a satsuma from the still-life

on her table, turbans her thumb, removes

the peel slowly: a spiral, an abstract.

She feels nothing. It's dark outside.

 

The height of Parisian entertainment

is cut from the frame: the trapeze artist's

ankles are all that remain.

 

She's been to see this painting a dozen

times – more – and watched her students

hustle to get a good look as though fighting

for drinks at the Union Bar. The girl's glazed

expression, kept behind security glass.

 

The barmaid has no reflection; a ghost

amid the vanity, defined by her work and yet lost

to it. The chandeliers hang like rain clouds.

 

13 July

Kestrel

by Harry Owen

12 July

Comfort

by Sheenagh Pugh

John Thomson, d 1618

 

You would have to know where he lived,

how his croft clung to a hillside

forty times its size, on sufferance.

 

To stand under meteor showers

and northern lights, under a sky so vast

it swallowed his voice,

 

to see daily the breathtaking sweep

of hills, green and purple breakers

of surging stone,

 

to hear the ravishing inhuman voices

of birds, water, wind. You would need

to look out from his land,

 

where the ocean glitters beyond what eyes

can bear, the view he shared with no one,

to understand John Thomson,

 

who, long ago, was strangled for seeking

the stable’s warmth and, with soft words

of comfort, making love to his mare.

 

11 July

from 'Love is Like a Dizziness'

by James Hogg

10 July

from 'How to Carry a Poem'

by Diana Hendry

9 July

Homage to E3

by Ahren Warner

…a retinal twitch.         And the day still    black ink bled grey

the excess running to clot in the gutter     with socks     render

 

from patchy shops             a silt screed     over pavement slabs

sifted      from foot to foot                 passed between strangers.

 

The light   though          has turned        from plucked    to reed 

glissando;                an irreal shift          from seen to wadding.

 

You                        in your jeans that leave your legs flagpoles

your face sous rature       hacked cough     have been romantic.

 

The sun is going down               through bare trees and behind 

tower-blocks        windows turned phosphor        smog-orange

 

with softened light           skulked back       through stair wells

remaindered    through west facing windows        gracing east

 

finding us shifting              foot to foot          on a street corner       

the air a definite        pizzicato.                   Here      my breath

 

is the first glut         since a child      stuttering into the garden    

ruddy faced                        lungs singing      clear with oxygen.