The Two

I mounted the steps of The Art Institute Of Chicago in the blizzard night. There had never been a snowfall like this and I trudged to the museum down the center of Michigan Avenue even as the city was put away, its tall buildings and lights encased in drifts. The museum was open on most Wednesday evenings, and I hoped I could pass its guardian lions and haunt its galleries.

I had known I would write poetry exclusively since I was small. Like the first, mysterious wet dream I’d produced my first mature poem at about eight. It was, I learned later, normal to the craft, and I recognized its benignity. I’d read nothing to advance my work, at first. I was innocent of everything but free verse, the opposite of this winter’s night.

The museum was open and I was free to roam. I flew up the Institute’s grand staircase and stood before the long blue glass of a Chagall window. My poetry–the interior light I hoped could be made perfect– was betrothed to the scenes I studied on every wall. I would lead the reader along line breaks, sometimes as confused as the mark of skates on a frozen pond, to the inevitable end of the poem that would have been undiscoverable but for the witness and encouragement of art. I turned from the Chagall stained glass:

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The Two

I think when God

walked shy to Moses,

stars clustered in his hands,

he led our rabbi down

to the orchards of the heart.

The two walked near the other

and traded dreams like brothers

before sleep. They paused

afield and watched the sun,

lifted by themselves in unison,

race overhead. And Moses knew

not to disappoint this man

with faltering steps or speech.

God wept uncomprehending

of his artistry and Moses scratched

some lines in stone to honor

a beloved friend.

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I could not have been the only poet who was undergoing struggle, or finding succor in paintings. There is nothing new under the sun. When I couldn’t sleep, I would look at the long row of buildings along Chicago’s Outer Drive.  At the deepest hour, there were windows lighted. Were they sleepless too? Sparking with words?

 

By Charles Bane Jr  | Featuring photography from Mayuri Paranthahan | Featuring artwork by Damianovskaia 

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Charles Bane, Jr

Charles Bane, Jr. is the author of three collections of poetry including the recent " The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems ( Transcendent Zero Press, 2015 ) and "The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry", as well as "I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories" ( Avignon Press, 2015) and " Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall ( Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry Series for The Gutenberg Project.