Lesson 1 – Action
Let the cloud colors out in long furls
of lilac, tangerine, and ash,
so the sky appears to be escaping from the frame.
Let the jib curl
like a fat, white apostrophe
above the beat-flat bow turned east.
Clutter the horizon with crests and troughs,
troughs and crests and sea foam flung skyward.
Let the gulls trail green kelp in their bills
and their orange feet drag behind them.
Make the girls’ screams as bright and solid
as the stones they skip across the water,
one, two, three, eleven!
Let the horse-head seal upon his rock
resist the brain’s instruction to flee
as the charcoal fin pierces the water.
Lesson 4 – Distance
A white-necked magpie floats overhead.
One sense of distance can be achieved
by two lines drawn diagonally, if
as they move across the page the space between them
diminishes to a thread. This will lead the eye deep
into the field or to the stone walls that frame
the groves or the green shadows where, now,
the magpie mutters like a priest in his confessional.
Who does not need forgiveness?
The instructor demonstrates how horizontal lines drawn parallel
define what’s near and what the eye might imagine by bending light,
here, the threshold of my door, there, East of everything,
the Adriatic, where a blood orange smear signals morning,
the bream and mackerel boats heading out,
their engines’ putter blessing the hammered silver day.
I follow as she explains how each vertical construction
infers sky—raised cross, soaring bird, any form
that climbs above mid-page will raise the eyes.
The priest-bird overhead, clouds above him,
empty space filling in around his long, slow, glide.
I want to see what the bird sees, to float on wood and taffeta
like the locksmith of Sable,
but I am anchored here—mid-life, mid-page.
In 1678, Besnier, a locksmith from Sable, France created a pair of wood and taffeta wings that he wore on his back and flapped using ropes attached to his hands and feet. He managed to float from windows and roofs, though never actually flew.
MIRIAM O’NEAL’s work has appeared in Ragazine, Marlboro Review, Southern Poetry Journal, Blackbird Journal, and elsewhere.