Thursday, May 27, 2021

Poetry Friday: Carrying Stuff and an Ekphrastic Poem

During National Poetry Month, I got a poem in my email from Knopf Poetry called "Flowers," by Cynthia Zarin. It ended like this:


It seemed especially important

not to spill the coffee as I usually

do, as I turned up the stairs,


inside the whorl of the house as if

I were walking up inside the lilies.

I do not know how to hold all


the beauty and sorrow of my life.


You can read the whole poem here.


It's true; holding all the beauty and sorrow of life is never easy, and this week was a doozy. So that's a bit about where my mind was as I worked on the prompt for May from the Poetry Peeps, which I read about here. It involves writing an ekphrastic poem using a photo you've taken at a museum. I have so many of that kind of photo, from so many museum visits through the years. I picked out several, and I think I'll go on writing them for a while, but here's one I wrote this week.


I took this photo in 2014 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The photo is blurry - I took it with my iPod - but I like it better than the much better photo you can see here at the Cleveland Museum of Art's website, because their photo doesn't have my kids in it.  In addition to looking at their website, I watched a video you'll find at that link, called "On My Mind: Monet's Water Lilies," in which Heather Lemonedes Brown talks about how much the painting means for her as she's isolating at home.

So here's the poem, or at least a first draft of it:

Water Lilies, Cleveland Museum of Art

Sit here
for a moment.
Look at the
water lilies.

The world
doesn’t go away
while you look at
water lilies.
It’s still there,
right outside the garden.

At Giverny,
Monet could hear the guns from the front
as war raged.

But he kept painting
water lilies.

Kept thinking of a future
when all these
water lilies
would be in one room
for people to stare at,

surrounded by
pure color,

not fighting,

sit here
for a moment.
at the
water lilies.

Michelle Kogan has this week's roundup.


Linda B said...

I recently read the new picture book about Monet and his painting habits, amazing. Now here you are praising the work, showing the good it will offer, if one only "looks". Nice, Ruth!

Denise Krebs said...

Oh, Ruth,
What a beautiful poem you shared "Flowers" by Cynthia Zarin. I love reading new poems shared by this community.

Interesting how seven years after you took that photo, you took time to look at it again and write this beautiful poem. I love the history of Monet you share. It has such a rich meaning then when you get to the last stanza and repeat the beginning, only more emphatically.
at the
water lilies."

A powerful look at peace and a future of hope.

I've found here connections with my own post today about carrying things.

Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, this is beautiful...hearing peace. What a treasure, the photo of your kids in this place, seeing them taking in the peace Monet meant for them. Just beautiful.

Carol Varsalona said...

looking at the water lilies painting by Monet and visiting the videos made me realize why I turn to nature. Its restorative power brings serenity. I shall think of the poem you wrote, watch my newbie garden of young plantings grow, and write in quiet spaces. Thanks, Ruth, for bringing a gentle touch to my morning.

Karen Eastlund said...

Thanks for sharing these treasures!

tanita✿davis said...

Oh, Ruth.
We can hear the guns, too, can't we?
The ugliness of the world doesn't cease just because we have art, but it really can help us hold space for the numinous. What a gorgeous thought, thank you.

And here's to going back to museums again, SOOOOON.

Janice Scully said...

Such a lovely poem. It reminds me of a museum I went to in Hartford, CT about five years ago. I saw a Monet collection with four huge paintings of waterlilies in one room. It was fantastic. We need art to remind us of the beauty in our world, always, but especially in times like this. Lovely post, Ruth.

Karen Eastlund said...

Thanks for sharing these treasures!

mbhmaine said...

Oh, that Cynthia Zarin poem is so on target for me right now. I've been thinking a lot about balancing/recognizing the beauty and sorrow in my life and finding it challenging. She so elegantly captures what I've been struggling to express. Your Monet poem is beautiful, too.

michelle kogan said...

I like Cynthia Zarin's matter of fact voice in her poem–it sure is hard sometimes
"to hold all."

Your poem is so lovely, and no
"The world
doesn’t go away
while you look at
water lilies."

But it sure can help our perspective and other aspects of our emotions when we choose to return to it, thanks!

jan godown annino said...

dear Ruth! Both your foto & poem from sitting silently with Monet's magic in Cleveland are a calm breath. Appreciations for the poet new-to-me Cynthia Zarin who is a gift to the world for her idea of walking inside lily.
We need these deep breaths of beauty against the harsh jabs that balance our days.
Thinking of your Family & You.

Jone said...

Ruth, The beginning poem from Zarin is beautiful. And that onto of the Monet. I didn’t know that he heard the gun shot. I love these lines:

“The world
doesn’t go away
while you look at
water lilies.”

This line brought me back to a year ago, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and going to the botanical gardens for a brief respite.
Thank you for this

Karen Edmisten said...

But he kept painting
water lilies.

Kept thinking of a future

*Love* this. Yes. When we don't know how to hold all the beauty and sorrow of our lives, we can return to this. xo