Author's Note: The poet is always the poem, one way or another, and perhaps that is why most poets do not require an autobiography, and most, unless of uncommon cultural or historical significance, do not require a biography, or so I've heard, and I think Whitman had it right when he claimed he had become the book. I would like to think "The Masters" has something for poets in its description of related arts. It was begun in 2011 in Cambridge and completed in time for its inclusion in Transversales, (2013).
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
After rows of cuneiforms pressed in salmon-colored clay, after exhibits of gold-foiled glass on glass shelves, aisles of marble heads, abducted thinkers, and foreign patriots, cases of painted fans and samplers ancient girls made, after the displays of swords and hammered armor pilfered from lands philologists could not name, we saw a group of children pass under the Caryatids, then gather in Gallery Three. All in red vests and white collars, some stood, attentively, others sat cross-legged on the carpet faded with floral designs, a few on settees, listening to their teacher explain how the creators had affection for their art, otherwise how could their art be? The sunlight through the clerestory above, suffused the plaster frieze, a cast of the Elgin marbles, and onto scrolled frames, poppyhead finials, and entered the pores of statuary, the faces of ancients, the flying creatures of myth they made, and the red-vested children, respectful, clean, as if the sun was slowly purifying everything. The teacher went on to explain how the artists lived in a different world when they worked, a sacred place and how the lives of the children too could be the same, whatever their direction, whatever they made, how the things that surrounded them that day were forms of affection, and the masters themselves, objects of imagination.
©2020 Michael Gessner
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