Art of Poetry’s Melissa Hager reads the poem by Jane Shlensky next to the W.E.B. Starkweather painting that inspired her work. The photo was taken at the March 2016 event, courtesy of Roger and Ginny Sanford.
after “Late Afternoon Light” by William E.B. Starkweather
Whoever dreams house conjures walls and windows,
imagines inside looking out, porch and open door,
dreams garden, shade tree, sunlight, dappled floral green.
Home is made of such dream work, longed-for warmth,
the placement of complementary plants, early birds,
a Japanese maple maroon as Bordeaux
accenting wisteria hanging lilac from the trees,
hydrangea like heavy clouds, iris, daffodils.
Home is early spring fresh with possibilities.
But do we ever dream a late afternoon’s light,
the blinding yellow that drains the world of color,
the harshness of truth that forces us to squint
baked into facades, erasing roof shingles,
horizons, and everything we have planted
and struggled into being?
That intensity of dying light—that reminder
of life’s power to make and unmake—
Well, that is the purpose of shade trees,
to dapple truth and protect us from God’s glance.
We look upon our homes set side by side
on a green and friendly street, tree roots
pushing up the sidewalk, rockers set
on each porch like an invitation, and say,
“This is it. This is good.”
Last stanza is especially good.