V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics



"JULY, 1935-1943"
(from a painting by Charles Burchfield)

      I decided that the idea had possibilities
                   for a much grander scale.
                     —Charles Burchfield

           To make a prairie takes clover and
                  one bee.
                      —Emily Dickinson

You can tell, looking at that maple—
studying it, how it was bound
to outgrow that first sheet of paper.
That's the way with some maples;
needed space and a partner, and a road
lined up beside them, headed somewhere.
More paper.  Two maples lined a road
so that a man standing on the road,
resting in the shade, looking out
between them can feast his eyes—
on a wheatfield, naturally, and here
it comes, golden ripe, almost to falling
over, fanning out like a dream
from the fence line to the barn, a full
barn—too big to get it all onto that paper.
When you frame a sky with maples
like that, with a wheatfield like that,
with a fence line flaring out, and a barn
too big, you have to paint it blue,
and clear, no clouds, no dust.
How could anyone see otherwise
that wagon in the distance, a wagon
drawn by horses, almost to the woods?
For eight years you've been painting
to keep them in that field, through
drought and dust and howling winds,
those men bucking hay to feed their horses.
You fill their wagon to fill their barn;
against empty fields you paint your paper full.

© by John Ruff


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