|Marc Chagall, "The Poet Reclining"|
|Marc Chagall, "White Crucifixion"|
The Blue House
I can see a long way up here
where the blue house is balanced
on a bluff yellow with late summer
fields that extend to the city.
You can see me, for the door
and the windows are open to air.
I sit in a chair and hold a cup
of tea. Or is that you I see inside
and is that me, running downhill,
away from the house, on the path
lined with hip-high wheat.
Looming larger above me
the closer I come is the jumble
of buildings, a white cross atop
each sky-blue dome, the church
enclosed by Byzantine battlements.
Is that figure below the cathedral,
almost too small to see,
raising an arm toward the city
in joy? Or turning back
to wave goodbye to the house?
Why does the modest cottage
seem so isolated from town?
Why is it painted such a radiant blue?
The wood looks like the glass
of the evil eye, and the planes
aren’t square, but ramshackle.
The foundation is shored up
against the hill, on the brink—
I can see the danger now.
And yet the blue house
invites us to look in, enter,
have a seat and drink
a cup of tea that tastes
too beautiful on the tongue
when you exclaim, “Ah, the view!”
The house was not blue.
My memory painted it
the color of the morning sea.
Look, out there, far from shore,
the fisherman is
disappearing in his orange boat
that floats along a gray smear
of light, marring the sapphire depths.
In the impossible pigment
is the day we have to leave
for good, to find other refuge.
No, the blue house was not
a hue in nature, sea or sky
or a precious stone.
It was a color made
by human hands, like a home.
|Marc Chagall, "The Blue House"|
|Marc Chagall, "I and the Village"|
Day Breaks on Andros, 1944
When all at once dogs bark from the cobblestone
labyrinth in my nightmare and donkeys clop,
more burdened than ever, and the roosters panic
with church bells, footsteps, a screaming lamb,
I think, they know who I am, and they’ll take me away…
at last, they’ve identified me, however narrowly.
Cerberus howls his unwanted welcome;
the doves grunt with the weary souls
in the underworld.
Then just as suddenly I wake, a taste on my tongue
like something spoiled. The red hibiscus flowering
outside the window spins a second among sunrays,
then stops. A gust of wind.
I’m on the island, safe for now.
I reach for my glasses on the nightstand,
put them on, and the room’s colors shift into focus.
Then I turn my head slowly on the pillow,
almost afraid to reassure myself.
My daughter is asleep, there on the small bed
next to mine, her lips moving a little,
her braid coiled along her neck, her hand resting
on the chest of her doll.
I remember it is Easter Sunday and the scream
I heard was the lamb carried off to be slaughtered.
Today I will celebrate, too, posing as a Christian,
and I will call out with the rest, Christos anesti!
Christ has risen.
We’ve been passed over. I allow
sleep to lay its heavy body on mine
and I sink beneath it for a few more hours,
still and dreamless.
|Marc Chagall, "Easter"|
|Marc Chagall, "The Promenade"|
Red Picnic, 1946
We spread our picnic on a red blanket on the beach
and our daughter plays in the shallows where Chagall’s
paintbrush mixes ultramarine with sand.
You hold my hand and I feel my body rising
like a kite above us, above you and me
and our Elefthería’s joyous white splash,
and the red tile roofs of the village grouped
across the hills that embrace the beach.
There are no eyes peering out from the eaves.
There are no houses turned upside down.
There’s the carafe of burgundy on the red blanket
And just a little food. A tomato. An end of bread.
So much beauty, to name it feels almost like peace,
like sorrow to name it, too, as if my words
could save the picture of you smiling at us
or the wine warm in my throat, making my hip
curve upward just like your red grin, or my violet dress
fluttering against my skin like many wings,
or our daughter Elefthería in a ruby bathing suit,
her pale fingers waving from the sea,
the deep paint still shining blue and wet.
|Marc Chagall, "Table Laid with View of Saint-Paul de Vance"|
|Marc Chagall, "Double Portrait"|