Five Late poems
This file is about five printed pages long.
For the Birds: The Life of Paolo Uccello
Uccello once fancied he was turning into cheese,
still, lived “to a disgruntled eighty-three”,
according to the censorious Vasari.
He was the fanatical type, like Spinoza.
He loved pictures of animals and birds,
being unable to afford the creatures themselves
or, like Leonardo, to buy and free them.
When his friend Donatello made fun of him
he stopped painting, saw no one, spent his last years
“solitary, eccentric, melancholy and poor”,
working on intricate technical problems.
His wife said he’d refuse to come to bed,
saying “Oh, what a lovely thing is this perspective!”
He seems to me to have been a happy man.
The hoopla! clang and return of the typewriter carriage
invests each line with a finally spurious authority.
The same is true of the genre of “nature poems”.
Birdlife regarded as historically portentous
or the cypresses as spelling out something in Umbrian
have all the easy felicity of soap.
The marquetry of incandescent cumulus over the hilltops
is an exercise in mere rococo; while in the village,
pointlessly, the Christian Democrats are dancing.
Rain sweeps in from Lago Trasimene
in this season of mauve flowers after the season of yellow.
I would hold, in point of making a statement,
against the nightingale’s obstinate aria
the lit and utter silence of fireflies.