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Falling Into Velázquez

by Mary Kaiser

2006, 29 pages

Winner of the 2006 Sapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition.

"Eakins Makes a Hot Day"

Mount Vernon Street, Philadelphia, 1872

Eye dead center, he lashes his perspective to the vanishing point,
rules, sketches looming verticals and a thin keel wedge, outlines
the intake of an hour: like a hot day he once saw or is seeing.

Oblique angles of an unmanned skiff cross foolscap lines. Paired oars
like finger bones skim the grid. Box end and oarlock float skyward.
Pencilled cones suggest a sturdy lower body–is this a spectral man?

Fresh sheet, new lines. With a wash of cheap tint, he skates the shell
across paper planks. Inside the spokes, blank torsos man the oars.
The graphite pier, weightless as a cinder, drifts into the shallow hull.

Eakins counts his grid to see where the sun hits water and how far
beams stretch in summer. Once fixed, the rowers’ skulls shift the apex.

Reflection notes ride the sky: trees on near side, off side of a man.
The artist combines never creates, and then the craft comes round.

Taut canvas gessoed, palette loaded, linseed and sweat reek of Paris
where rivals stripped to wrestle on the grit-strewn floor, and where
he learned to use the brush, more powerful than point or stump.

Light sifts through layers of ochre to the chalky impasto of an August sky.
Champion rowers John and Barney Biglin ease their racer’s slim length
round granite pilings weathered and mossed as the walls of Babylon.

The sun’s yellow blade chisels elbows, knees, cheekbones. An oar’s tip
foams; crimson outriggers inject raw pigment into classical sludge.

Leaning back for the next long stroke, the dapper Biglins squint westward,
beyond the sunset and the slantwise prospect of their pair-oared shell,
launching out of somber gradation into a foreground of untried blue.

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Audio Sample:

As read by the author,
Mary Kaiser


About the Author:

Mary Kaiser

Praise For
Falling Into Velázquez

"Painting and poetry have been twinned since antiquity, but seldom so eloquently as in Mary Kaiser's collection, Falling into Velázquez. Poem after poem pulls us into a work of art-some famous, some not-and then out into our own lives again….Mary Kaiser's luminous first collection delights from beginning to end."

—Peter Meinke

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