[ToC[

 

4 POEMS

Janée J Baugher

 

ANDREW WYETH'S FOOTNOTES TO FARAWAY, 1952

  1. Jamie darted into my studio, a stupid coonskin cap atop his head, but I just kept at the landscape propped on my easel.
  2. He wandered outside and I thought about that cap, made from having killed a 'coon, skinned it, separated the fur from deeper layer of skin, its head decapitated now balanced on the crown of my boy's head, the tail reaching toward his tailbone.
  3. I looked back at my landscape, but I had a feeling I should grab my sketchpad and go.
  4. I called his name, and when I finally found him, he was crouching in a field of tall, fried grass.
  5. He swiveled around. I froze. In that pale face, was not our boy, but my nephew's.
  6. The passing of my brother's firstborn—we never discussed it.
  7. He was also wearing a leather coat and metal-tipped shoes. "From Pa-pa's chest," he said. And I remembered that N. C.'s studio, untouched since his death, stacked with his largescale paintings, with prop swords and guns, and a trove of costumes.
  8. Then began a watercolor, though I used drybrush for the cap and grass.
  9. Squeezing the liquid from the brush, I discovered, is a type of griefwork.
  10. Time stops for the dead.
  11. Which black for the black of his dead child's shadow?
  12.  Grief.
    *  Do you count them when they're gone?
    †  Nate, deliver me your sorrow.
    ‡  Coonskin caps carry the spirit of the dead.
    §  "Nobody blew the whistle that day," Karl told me.
    ¶  One child-sized casket and one for a giant.

 

[NOTE: 1. Meryman p. 271, 7. Meryman p. 272 and Merymanp. 55, 12. § Antiquaria (Part 1)]

 

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ANDREW WYETH'S FOOTNOTES TO NICHOLAS, 1955

  1. Sigismondo Malatesta.
    *  15th century tempera portrait.
    †  Profile by Piero della Francesca.
    ‡  Military commander.
    §  Verse composer.
    ¶  Can my composite rival his?
  2. In my studio the boys were always welcome.
  3. Would it be arithmetic problems, the periodic table, or paper airplanes today?
  4. Without a word, he sat on the floor to play with my toy soldiers.
  5. His profile and the fur lining of his coat—he was like a forest nymph or an orphaned doe.
  6. At my easel, I was failing a landscape. I walked over to the wall mirror to better see it.
  7. On his forehead and on the slope of his nose to chin to jaw were my missoung contours.
  8. Nicky expressed much more poignantly what I was trying to say in the landscape so that I felt as if I could actually scale the hills that I'd only imagined a moment earlier.
  9. And there was something else.
  10. I held my brush up in mid-air, closed one eye, and took a deep breath.
  11. In the jutting chin, underbite, thick round of his earlobe, and brown tuft of hair, I saw my father.
  12. I began painting him on an empty corner of my dead picture.
  13. And in that moment, I felt more complete than before the train had struck him down.
  14. N. C. Wyeth.
    *  20th century black-and-white photograph.
    †  Profile by Scribner's.
    ‡  Stowed in my drawer.
    §  He called my hands "unpaintable."
    ¶  How can I measure up?

 

[NOTE: 2., 6. "TIME Cover," 4. Meryman, p. 53, 8., 12. Meryman, p. 269, 14. § Meryman, p. 39]

 

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ANDREW WYETH'S FOOTNOTES TO THE PATRIOT, 1964

  1. At my studio one sign reads, "I am Working So Please Do Not Disturb."
  2. While I can never predict my source material, where the spark ignites I listen.
  3. Silent Films
    Give you a chance to dream.
    †  King Vidor's "The Big Parade."
    ‡  I watched [it] about 180 times.
    §  U.S. Army Marksmanship Qualification.
    ¶  A badge I'd only seen in a movie.
  4. When I first saw Ralph Kline in his WW1 regalia, I couldn't believe I'd found in the wild an actual coat brandishing that marksmen rifle honor.
  5. He's not used to being looked at, but agreed to come to my studio.
  6. I sketched him at a distance and in loose strokes.
  7. When it came to the badge, I walked up to him and touched it.
  8. While I aimed for a picture of just his "sharpshooter" badge, whereby I could behold the way the center is held by four decorative ends of convex metal, context matters.
  9. So, I painted his bald white head, brow creases, crow's feet, and lip stained black from chew.
  10. I painted one sagging ear lobe, loose skin about the neck, and him donning a buttoned-up Army jacket, green for fatigue, where badges and metals are pinned with pride.
  11. I painted him smirking for what he's gotten away with.
  12. Kline sat as still as a bust.
  13. He reminded me of Rodin's sculpture of Shaw, and if I'd asked him to bear his chest, I would have inadvertently replicated it.
  14. George Bernard Shaw
    *  Auguste Rodin's marble bust.
    †  "Arms and the Man" playwright.
    ‡  About the futility of war, Virgil wrote.
    §  Arma virumque cano.
    ¶  Musa, mihi causas memora.
  15. No doubt, Shaw led me to Rodin who led me to Vidor who inspired me to invite Kline into my studio, where, for once, he was innocent.
  16. On the door, the sign reads, "Beware of Dog."

 

[NOTE: 3. *, ‡, 4. CBS Sunday Morning, 5. Meryman, p. 166, 14. §, ¶ The Aeneid]

 

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ANDREW WYETH'S FOOTNOTES TO ALVARO AND CHRISTINA, 1968

  1. Funeral Blues.
    *  If I were a poet, I'd have words.
    †  "Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,"
    ‡  "Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood…"
    §  Auden, help me paint elegiac.
    ¶  The negative space.
  2. Ought I portray the door as sullen as I—blue, nicked, scored—either evidence of their dogs having clawed it or how he'd resort to pressing armfuls of wood against it and shoving it open with his foot?
  3. Stack of metal pails inside a metal basin, two pots on pegs, rags hung stiff from rusted nails, and the broom's dowel leaning against the wall.
  4. That I felt as impaired as she was we never discussed. When did she feel geranium-beautiful?
  5. No joy in the browns and sepia. Joyless yellow for age.
  6. I finally have his portrait—the loading beam, his woven wood basket empty of carrots, cabbage, peas, and how he's never coming back.
  7. Not with empty pails and return with milk from the heifers and eggs bulging from pockets.
  8. I imagine inside, flames bloom under her cast iron pan.
  9. Hear the clatter of putter plates and cutlery tossed onto the table.
  10. With their door rendered turquoise-lavender, they'd probably call it saccharin.
  11. Behind me, I'll shut the door.
  12. The sky has wintered.

 

[NOTE: 1. †, ‡ Auden, 2. Bianco]

 

 

 

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Images of Andrew Wyeth's artwork can be found at [https://www.brandywine.org/museum].