Pastoral Sketches, No. 5 & 6: “Youth” & “Age” by Howard Pugh; “Boats to Gogh (brightened)” by Lynn Rogers

"Boats to Gogh (brightened)," painting by Lynn Rogers, copyright 2013

“Boats to Gogh (brightened),” painting by Lynn Rogers, copyright 2013

Editor’s Note: These two Pastoral Sketches
on “Youth” and Age” represent one of Howard
ambitious series of interrelated
poems — this time getting into the nexus of our
relationship with the old Gods, Nature and our
modern selves.

Lynn Rogers’ beautiful atmospherics make
her painting
“Boats to Gogh (brightened)” a real treasure,
hitting a chord with some of Howard’s “moon tones” and “iridescence”
in his richly descriptive poem “Youth.”

(Pastoral Sketch No. 5)
by Howard Pugh
copyright 2013

Branches of an old oak
wend their way upward,
change colors as they multiply
–away from the possessive earth,
its opacity, its gums of inhibition–
upward until they thin and vein,
escaping all burden:
all the sister leaves and brother leaves glimmering,
iridescent, dreaming, lusting for childish paradise:

We romped through halcyon fields,
water-nymphs amidst the hyacinths,
cherubs smiling down atop clouds of gold,
moon-tones and innocence gilding the edges.

(Remember, it wasn’t a dream, it was real).

The sky bursting of blue
like a great tenor,
an aria so rousing it invites
the stars to peek through.
Whispers and confusion.
A great flock of birds.

(All life shoots out, a pro-
clamation of joyous deceit).

Blossoms opening to the sun,
mouth-like, slack-jawed,
barely looking up
so opiated with greed,
so fat and numb and breathless and trembling
in the transparency of desire.

(The earth always grows heaviest before the quake).

Fruit too, dangling and unadorned:

Each, accidental moments that can suddenly uncoil
before the mad rush of shame can cast its pall,
before the serpents of desire can smuggle away their joy,
and group into formations of something like semaphor

Primary colors dancing around quite naked
dangerous in their simple-headed ways.
Enter the slobbering paw of my rough tongue.

Primary colors dancing around quite naked
dangerous in their simple headed ways.
Enter the slobbering paw of my rough tongue.

O welcome bosom,
O shiny eye and shining pelt,
O everything at once, gratifying and forgiving.

(The multiform theremins leach out beneath the rim,
run off with the future of everything.)

Pastoral Sketch No. 6
by Howard Pugh
copyright 201

They say being from the country is a state of mind,
but this state of mind is more about far apart villages and far apart towns
and these towns have almost nothing but farmers
farmers that worry, that work and hardly sleep,
work until the ground is finally wrung-out and spent
and stats to boil up with bones of their ancestors
and these bones pile into hillocks and teeter and spill
and the children become fond of them, invent games
with lots of running and the making of forts. Until a day comes
when the bones start to disappear.

The bones are turning to powder,
a powder that, when mixed with rain, goes suddenly dark,
becomes a curious kind of lacquer:
a beautiful rusty bronze,
a beautiful tawny amber.
Which, when they paint everything, turns it historical hues.
Which, when they paint their dogs and children, casts them in a sepia tone.
Which, when they paint the buildings and hills, separates them even further:
into distances apart from each other and distances from time itself
and everything moves along even slower, and living is waiting
and an unwillingness to let go from the past.

Their Ulysses never came back home, it’s said.
He was a man that became a vision that
turned to rumors: an old snake that got
run over and left on the interstate.

Categories: painting by Lynn Rogers, poem by Howard Pugh

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