Linda Gregerson

(August 5, 1950 / Illinois)

Interior Of The Oude Kerk, Delft, With Open Grave

Poem by Linda Gregerson

Emanuel de Witte, 1653 [?]

And you, friend, in a footnote, thanked
for kindly
inspecting the date “under magnification,” who

are dead these twenty years. The author will have
had some subtle
point to make (diagonal recession of the

transept, fluent brushwork, more or less
than versions by the same hand in another

year), the painting will have been remote
(a small museum
in a small midwestern town), and you,

well you were graced with patience, you
might well
have taken pleasure in so formal, so

fastidious a task. And meanwhile this
light: the pillars in their radiant

stillness, honeyed vaulting, shadow
plying blessed
partiality, as if to say, the whole

view, yes, but not till you can bear it. Thus
two-point, washed in milk. I do not

speak against that other beauty—lapis,
vermeil, leaded
glory with its saturating stain

of praise—but this, for me, for limpid
intimation of
the light to come, comes nearer, comes

as near as stone and pigment can be made
to come.
This church in Delft is something like

a village square: gossip, dogs, the woman frankly
nursing, no one
thinking she hasn’t a right to be here,

the sexton at his homely labor, spade
and shovel,
pickax, broom. You wouldn’t know,

to stand amidst this sociable
how bitter the quarrel had been. And

see: the banished image makes a small
return. Red chalk.
The children having found the too-

white pillar in the foreground too
they’ve remedied a too-consistent

doctrine with their brightest anthropomorphic
scrawls. How
. . . what? How wry? How happy

of the painter to include so irrefutable an
instance of
the will-to-speak-in-pictures, red

graffiti on the newly chastened canvas
of the church.
And newly chastening: a four-by-eight

foot flagstone has been lifted up on plinths
so the sexton
may open the earth with his spade. Had he

thought to chase the children away,
he might
have been spared some later work with soap

and brush. He doesn’t think the dead
will be much
bothered in the meantime, though; his

country’s built on water, he should know.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Poem Edited: Wednesday, September 14, 2011