What He and Michelangelo Know

“There on the scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.” -Yeats

The Hudson’s sunk in this great vale of blue.
The Catskill’s hackle bristles in the sky.
The setting sun transforms the clouds into
Earthlike layers that Time doth stratify.
This is no Rome, nor would I wish it be.
This is no dome that demigods do paint.
This is a whitish church under a tree;
And the man painting it is not a saint.
The soffit is a place that’s hard to reach;
So stretched I out my hand to brush the trim,
Funambulist-forethoughtful lest I reach
Too far, and fall into the Obscure Dim.
Thus at least this we have in common now:
I have felt the paint burn me ’neath the brow.

 

A Good Woman is Hard to Find
Adaptation of Christopher Marlow’s: “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

Come live with me and be my wife
And we will work at home all day;
And we will have a decent life,
Subsisting in an agrarian way.

I know where there’s a swath of land;
I saw it by a lake or stream,
Cooking on the alluvial sand,
And soaking up the sunny beam.

Come with me, if this sounds all right,
And we will catch the rainbow trout,
And let him run, just like a kite,
Holding the silk-line firm and taut.

We’ll bathe and wade in water blue,
And trap the crawdads neath our feet;
And pluck the wild-onions too,
And keep our cabin nice and neat.

O sure, she said. Now there’s the rub!
I bet you’ll have me do the chores!
And will mandate I beat the rug!
And do the taxes, sweep the floors!

Now am I right, or am I right?
She pressed while we were at a place.
I knew right then and there, despite
Her looks, it was not the face.

You’d have me live out on the fringe
Of civilization, correct?
Where all is course and privative?
And treat me with little respect?

O sure you’d love me right at first,
But soon I’d loathe our poverty.
Having grown up with fancy things
Fancy things are what sustain me.

And so I left, more calloused yet,
And grabbed my cane and roused the dog;
And hiked up in the bear-black hills,
And set up camp beside a log.

Then two years later with a leap
A flower-girl ’peared in the field;
And stopping by to pet my sheep,
To my discourse acquiesced to yield.

So we can till a plot of land?
Plant a garden beside the house?
My mother taught me how to can;
I’ve always loved a walled-in mouse.

And I’ll put nosegays in a vase;
And I’m not scared of slaughtering,
Or eating liver and raw-milk
Which out the teat is nourishing.

And I will have the kids at home;
And we will teach them how to read;
And you will teach them how to hunt;
And I will teach them how to knead.

Dinners, yes, partook at table;
No television will be had;
Duties shared whenever able;
So take it or leave it my lad.

Touché, I said, and sat me down
Upon the flower-stippled grass.
For twenty years I ran the town,
But all the girls I had to pass,

And tramp up to my mountain nook
Because I was unsuccessful.
The girl I loved was in a book,
But now I am hale and restful.

 

Reid McGrath is a poet living and working in the Hudson Valley. 

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