by Peter Lopatin (July 2020)
Mountain Landscape, Emil Nolde
Tell me only what you see, without
interpretation. Can you do it?
Look, there, where meadow
angles down to creek, and
the greenery becomes
the kind that likes wet ground.
Go there for me while the
light still falls just as you see it
on the willow’s hanging, western
arms. Go there, and tell me only
what you see.
Or, if it suits you best, go, some
late October afternoon, to the city’s
northern edge where a road you’ve never
seen decays to gravel. Allow your eyes their
liberty and see tire-ruts filled with water like
a ship’s bilge, tinged with
gasoline rainbows from passing cars.
But if you’re strong enough, you can
stay in place and release your eyes
from their accumulated obligations,
and in that state, I’m told, if you see
one face and give no thought to thought,
you’ll see every face that has ever been
or can ever be.
If I could see all this myself, I would.
But my sight is bound to
darker things, to ghosts and
bastard children of thought and sense,
the oldest consummation.
So, go now in my stead and see
what’s there, in all these places.
But promise me you won’t explain:
just tell me, and then—as if there too—
I’ll see it all and know it with you.
There was no purpose in the air today,
no steel tempering in an ardent fire,
no billowed sails, no desperate play.
No jumper plunged from the sky today,
tearing at the ripcord of desire,
feeling that he must fall away
and trust in uncanny threads of silk,
or die enlivened by his brazen plunge.
There were no heroes of that ilk.
No one dared that brave descent.
The day declined its chance at glory
and would not accept what it was sent.
Instead of fire from the grinding wheel,
I saw blank eyes stare back at me
and then remembered what I wished to feel:
The unnoticed interstices of sense,
the intervals in which we question time
and each of its thousand cords relents.
But there remains the promise of another day.
(It will come; it was here before.)
I saw it once, though when, I cannot say.
Peter Lopatin was born and raised in New York where he earned his JD degree and practiced corporate law for thirty years. Along the way, he studied philosophy as a graduate student at the New School for Social Research. After retiring from his legal practice, he obtained a Certificate from the New School in teaching English as a Second Language and has been an ESL teacher since then. He has taught at the University of Connecticut/Stamford, Norwalk Community College, Manhattanville College and, most recently, at the Stamford English Language Academy. Peter’s short stories and book reviews have appeared in Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The New Atlantis, and New English Review. His poetry has appeared in New Millennium Writings and Poetry East.
Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast