So many eyes have seen this sea, they’re blind.one of thirty-six
fishermen brave the high sea —
mighty fuji’s seen
meditate on where
oh, place the kento1 with care —
every part is spare
the sea’s our lover
her lovers brave her fury —
lapis lazuli 2my love’s a dragon
Edo3 sees the fickle sea —
push the brush away
So many eyes have seen this sea, they're blind.
@ rlbusséll 2021 - All rights reserved.
The Japanese printing “registration” system. Registration is a method printers use to guarantee that each print in a series is aligned the same way. ↩
a bright blue metamorphic rock consisting largely of lazurite, a bright blue pigment formerly made by crushing, being the original ultramarine. ↩
Painter. Profligate. Michelangelo, the fool. — Cardsharps in Kahn’s hall.
Was there a time when demons conquered, stayed; when Anthony’s tormentors shied away? Why roam through Rome your bravado displayed; why take your eye from your vision to stray? Your meanest tableaus set my mind aflame; Your work has worked itself into myself; Your brush became my only brush with fame. Uffizi’s Medusa’s upon my shelf. Blesséd Matthew, gripped by passion and flame, is taught by an angel’s breathless whisper. Then there is your telling of our night’s shame when, in the dark, Light was framed with silver. Do you still lie amid the labyrinthine streets of your Caesars’ stony concubine?
The echoing step Moves us through history’s halls — Saint Matthew’s burning.
My name still flies amid cent’ries’ darkness and like an ever circling bird, rises. My demons still roam my Rome in darkness looking for young flesh and tender prizes; Time’s elusive progress is circling ’round. Night required I prick with sharpened sword and sharpened tongue my enemies to hound; they were circling ‘round my girls to hoard their beauty and so keep my fame at bay. Have you seen my Fillide? Does she still live within Peter’s shadowy cabaret? I need to know if our flame will outlive my canvas, my sword, my haughty bluster. Do her lips still call men to her chamber?
Tiber flows swiftly. A starving tern yearns for food — Pleasures at coin’s cost!
Fillide did what she had to do to live and at the dawn of her womanhood, she plied her flesh and soul to live; the attractive are often forced, in poverty, to flee morality, and thus all the devils win. Fillide did die so many years ago that time has almost forgotten her sin. It must be pain entire to hit so low. I’m sure your Fillide’s flame is still burning; for her will did will herself in a frame. She died remembering you without spurning. She left us while petitioning our Dame. I pray Mary heard you at your last breath that all your darkness did not mark your death.
Mortar frames her bed. We all seem to hold our breath — The nightingale sings.
I can’t recall the cutlass’ cut ’n’ flash. My flesh was torn too soon to notice much. I recall the slow gasp, the bloody slash, the eyes so filled with knowing. And no touch can bring my blood to flowing. And no word can now make sinew move my dusty bones. All was darkness, there was a footfall heard, (the mute sound of leather on hardened stones) and then a challenge I could ne’er refuse. My rage ’twas like on Malta’s rock. I burned. I flared. “I’ll not have you my name ill-use. I am Caravaggio! You’re ill-learned. Honor you’ll show me or you’ll die tonight”, then came the end to me who once was knight.
Gilding frames his head. Now we speak of light and dark — Salomé dances.
Since childhood, I’ve had a powerful reaction to any image created by Caravaggio and I wanted to express my deep love for his work and my heartache at his untimely passing. When childhood heroes are hoisted on their own petard, some part of the edifice of childhood crumbles and this poem is a reaction to his falling façade.
M. Caravaggio is told, in what Michael O’Siadhail (Pronounced mee-hawl o’sheel) calls a “saiku” in his brilliant work “The Five Quintets.” The haiku before and after each sonnet act as a kind of time machine or a means to comment on what is to follow or what has just past.
M. Caravaggio contains four sonnets: in the first and third I ask some questions and in the second and fourth Caravaggio replies.
Poetic license was taken in the manner of Caravaggio’s death. No one truly knows how he met his end.
I have stayed away from posting for about a year — twenty-nineteen’s “haiku year” took a toll. I have not been idle though. As I hope this poem will attest. I pray this year will be your banner year and all good will be showered upon you and yours.
He had a particular gait — somewhere between Igor and Sasquatch; a shuffle that spoke of strength. He held his head high and with a toothy grin smiled his way into my life. I had to capture his stance. I had to picture his stand. How he held himself with honor and looked you straight in the eyes.
There are people that affect you, people that touch your life in untold ways, strangers that become friends, friends that become strangers. You never know who will change you. You never know the faces you’ll remember. What makes a person stick to you? What makes a person change the trajectory of your life? What butterfly’s wing will ripple your life? How many people have touched you? How many people have you touched? Honor does not lie in intelligence alone. Honor does not always sleep in the corridors of the powerful. There is honor in the small and quiet, there is honor in the ignored, weak, and forgotten. I am affected still by the shuffle-walk, haunted by hands held just so. So I honor him now by showing the world his face.
Years ago I worked at a home for the mentally disabled. It was a gloomy-happy place, a kind of box that locked away all, so that the world would garner no joy from its residents. The building had all the characteristics that come with such institutions: flickering florescent lights, wide dark hallways, and a quiet foreboding paleness. Yet, I have good memories of the people and the place. Despite their dire circumstances, they were, for the most part, joyful. Joy could be seen on their faces, in their eyes and in their unpretentious laughter; there was no one to impress, there was no one ingratiate, they had the freedom to be themselves.
I will be forever touched by the men and women that could not take care of themselves; by a people who could never grow up. People are not less honorable because their minds and their bodies do not grow at the same rate. There is a dignity in the face of a child-old. There is hope in a simple faith. God is not bound by our circumstances.
This is a thirty-nine-year-old painting of one of my charges. Painted alla prima, a method that helps produce fast oil sketches, impressions of impressions. It is done in one sitting. It doesn’t have to be thought about too much, doesn’t have be over-planned. I love this painting.
He speaks to me even after all the passing years. I can still hear his soft stammering mumble, see his gentle eyes and feel his big fingers softly touching my shoulder. His smile filled his face. He was a good man.
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” — Mark 10:14-15