Out of Thin Air
For John Ribble

[audio link]

Have you been outside today, John asks on the phone,
and I think no, of course not, not in that wind chill;
but he’s already saying how beautiful the snow is,
how it’s just cold enough to sparkle in the air,
that he doesn’t have enough paintings this time of year,
would like to find just the right tints for the way the sun
casts shadows on covered pine and berry branch,
softens the tall, stiff grasses, starts to expose edges
of boot prints on the path to the frozen lake.

In my mind he’s already walked out his front door,
found the perfect place to set up easel and canvas,
opened boxes of pastels, and stands, heron-like,
his hands in constant translation of what he sees
until the shifting light and numbness in his fingers
signal now, now is the time to stop and go home,
that what he has is close enough to what he needs,
that he will know which colors to add, what detail
to keep, and that he will call it, he now knows,
Looking at Lake Wingra in January, Ten Below Zero.

Sandy Stark
            from Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, Cowfeather Press, 2013