of the Stockton Arts Commision
by Stanley Kunitz
In this image of my friend’s studio,
where curiosity runs the shop, and you
can almost smell the nostalgic dust
settling on the junk of lost mythologies,
the artist himself stays out of view.
Yet anyone could guess
this is the magician’s place
from his collection of conical hats
and the sprawled puppets on a shelf,
the broken as well as the whole,
that have grown to resemble him,
or the other way round.
Butterflies, gameboards, and bells,
strewn jacks and alphabet blocks,
spindles, old music scores—
the litter spreads from wall to wall.
If you could dig to the bottom,
you might expect to find
a child’s plush heart,
a shing agate eye.
Here everything waits to be renewed.
That horse-age wagon wheel
proped in the corner
against an empty picture-frame,
Even in its state of disrepair,
minus three spokes,
looks poised for flight.
Tomorrow, maybe, at the crack of a whip
a flock of glittering birds will perch
on its rim, a burnished stranger
wearing an enigmatic mask
will mount its hub
and the great battered wheel
will start to spin.
by Robert Pinsky
And summer turns her head with its dark tangle
All the way toward us; and the trees are heavy.
With little sprays of limp green maple and linden
Adhereing after a rainstorm to the sidewalk
Where yellow pollen dries in pools and runnels.
Along the oceanfront, pink neon at dusk:
The long late dusk, a light wind from the water
Lifting a girl’s hair forward against her cheek
And swaying a chain of bulbs.
In luminous booths
The bright, traditional wheel is on its ratchet,
And ticking gaily at its little pawl;
And the surf revolves; and passing cars and people,
Their brilliant colors—all strange and hopeful as Ralegh’s
Trophies: the balsam, the prizes of untried virtue,
Bananas and armadillos that a Captain
Carries his Monarch from another world.
To My Father
by Robert Pinsky
The glazed surface of the world, dusk
And three mallard that land
In the dim lake, each
Scudding in a bright oval . . .
What chance, man, for the thin
Halting qualities of the soul?
Call this, prologue to an explanation,
Something like the way Uncle Joe Winograd
With a carpenter’s flat silence
Might act on some given stretch
Of Uncle Italo Tarantola’s lifelong
Lawyerly expanding monologue.
What I wanted, was to dwell
Here in the brain as though
At my bench, as though in a place
Like the long ongoing shop—
Between kitchen and factory—
Of a worker in wood or in leather:
Implements ranged in sizes and shapes,
The stuff itself stacked up
In the localized purposeful clutter
Of work, the place itself smelling
Of the hide, sawdust or whatever,
I wanted the exact words;
I wanted the way to pronounce
Evenly the judgement which a man
Who is quiet holds back as distinct
But not final in the presence
Of a good talker. I, a good talker,
Ask you, a quiet man, to recall the inside
Of a shop, glass dust and lenses
Everywhere, broken eyeglasses, forms
And odd pieces of paper, voices
Like phones ringing, tools
Broken and whole everywhere, mail
Unread, the sign—”Milford S.” or
“Robert”—hanging like a staight face
Surface, tyranny of the world visible,
Images that spread outward
From the brain like crazing—
Or like silvery ovals
That glide over the dark,
Ethereal, yet each wing beat
Firm in time, of more
Substance than this, this mothlike
Stirring of words, work or affection.