Rank green, the smell back there, I haven't mown in months, the milkweed towers,
so down the sash and up the a/c, back
to arranging these pretty sunflowers in the icily modern crystal vase
wedding gift our friend, dead since,
picked for us from a shelf of so many
when we were young.
IN TURNER'S VENICE, FROM THE PORCH OF MADONNA DELLA SALUTE J.M.W. Turner, ca. 1835
Four of us at the table, and the first problem before us has us speechless: who starts? Ruskin rubs his napkin across the moist crumbs on his moustache; halts, wears it like a veil, his eyes intenser for their framing, for their staring at Marcel who, encouraged, wants to gather the golden silent morning into word but, polite in his knowing that once started he cannot stop, declines; his eyes, limpid as they are stark in his deathmask photo by Man Ray, return the light to a light continuous as the painting we are in, we are in Venice, morning’s Venice, Turner’s Venice, and since I can’t turn mine from the glittering stairs and the forest of masts and the clouds of steam our coffees evaporate into; from there, behind the wall to the right of the third-back pillar, not hidden, not visible, where studied Turner’s sketches fan out on the table before us visually rhythmic and similar amongst themselves as the silence of our conversation is amongst the light which blur we and this whole city arrange out of and into the prints on my grandmother’s living room wall. These are his studies arranged around brightness like four men around a table amongst whom there is no ceiling but the sun, no black but the gondolas, no blue but the grand canal. Ruskin, please say something moral to stone and memory; Proust, the canal is flowing, won’t you please. On the water crinkly and heavy as mercury, commerce; on the water, shadow; under the water, under the frame, my grandmother is snoring into her plastic-covered lime-green couch, I should hear my brother and I up late and brilliant with laughter in the single bedroom in the twin beds kept for us those weekends sleeping over. If only I were not so dazzled by the decay of day seeping into us as it passes overhead or by this alembic limbo of conversation I desired desiring but imagine with no voice maybe the years would seem study like sketches to a painting or dreams to a day or memory to love and maybe, encouraged by my self-enclosed fantasy to look out of my fantasy, I would.
Stuart Greenhouse's chapbook, “What Remains,” was published by the Poetry Society of America and a second, “All Architecture,” was published as an e-chapbook by End & Shelf Press. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Antioch Review, Denver Quarterly, Paris Review, and Ploughshares.