Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Empty Heart *

Lonely beauty, silent in your stark scene

Of sorrow, your empty heart of landscape,

I have no skill to paint, can only drape

The canvas - focus on a new Christine.

I trust new joys and sorrows to convene,

To sketch new lines, choose colors of escape,

Unseal my confinement in black crepe -

Create today! Tomorrow’s unforeseen.

Look there! A soft-lipped brush begins to grow,

To sprout from secret seeds in ancient soil,

Graced by sun, wet by cool tears of gray skies.

Bruises of lies now cast but pale shadow

On a palette purged of long-past turmoil.

Landscape serene - its emptiness denies.

Empty Heart is a revision of my previous poem:
   Who's There.


  1. Faith, hope, poetry in landscape, landscape as watercolor, as grief's slow resurrection, in the blush of spring out of the dead of winter. Readers I hope will compare the revisions to see how a poem's penetrating sense is culled line by line. Better title, better first line -- in the original, "suspense" is too unsettling for the tapestry, "lonely beauty" a remove in the speaker which allows a more patient unfolding. You sharpen the location--in the heart -- and edit the sense of needing to somehow create a canvas more "Christine" than "Christine." Not necessary. The last line of the first stanza is much more a manifesto, like Elizabeth Bishop's "Write It!" -- there is a purpose at work here as manifest as spring. The observations are more participatory in the second version of the second stanza -- more physical in motions of personal grief. You kept the last line, which I haven't gotten through quite -- sort of a paradox, that so placid a view, the summation of the poem's landscape is refuted with those last three words, as if, nope, not there yet. Another landscape yet to come, another year of grief, perhaps arriving at another spring where all this will finally ring true? Great work, and thanks for showing how lines can be finessed to a gleam. I'm surprised you haven't posted this at oneshotpoetry today. -- Brendan

  2. Brendan,
    I really appreciate your interest and time taken in this close analysis of the poem. I usually start out with a phrase that seems to come from nowhere. The picture is from an inexpensive framed print in my hall. As I passed by it I thought, "Nothing in the landscape", leading to the usual philosophical musings; in this case a reminder of the existential sense of being, nothingness, all potential---a not knowing yet keeping faith
    in spite of that belief. Hence the emptiness denied. For me, faith is all I have, fullness of the void if you will ponder that paradox. As you made quite clear in your latest long reminder of the tragic accidents stemming from all our marvelous technological know-how, our power is not only limited but sometimes pathetic.

    In addition, I am a student teaching myself a new craft, dizzy reading the work of others online and old and new masters in print. The original poem better expressed the philosophy I was trying to get at, but in too cerebral a fashion (to be read BORING). Then the form presses as well, inevitably creating a current too strong to overcome (fascinating subject in itself). I revised after reading Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.” written in 1850. It appeared in a "how-to" book in a section on rhythm. I’m a klutz on rhythm, but the poem had such emotion it depressed me re my paltry attempts. So I put more heart into my revision and at the last minute, before deleting “Who’s There”, I decided to leave it. Why Not?

    I think this reply also explains why I agreed with you that, in the last analysis ‘---all is chant---’ ( an approximate quote).

  3. for me the poem really takes off in the second stanza...ok went and looked at the original as well...and you did well in the revisions...love the last line of the first stanza...nice write.

  4. " On a palette purged of long-past turmoil " ...love that line