Hubert and Jan van Eyck, 1432
Hush, lamb, lavish with blood in madder red, Your varnish overfed, Too fat for this thin season.Hush, choir—be-rubied, embroidered, unsomber As the lute tuned To your organ’s lustrous umber.And all you pious press in festal vestments, Silken chevaliers And saints, fold up your banners,Fold in your Flemish wings. We must a wan And wastrel vista Now, at the phlegmatic endOf spring, swapping our wanton carmines for shamefast Grisailles and the stern Click of the altarpiece latch.Here’s the catch: Though we’ve stanched our chansons, Slouching to matins Roughed in our workaday drab,Yet our grayscales blush under the muffled Thrum through the shut Hinges like the heatFrom a woodstove. We are by beauty shrove, And we its pledges Confess it in each intemperatePulse at the wrist, in the rash prismatics Of our glances. We’ve committed its rubricsTo heart. And to all the blackletter Austeres This our inmost responsory:Vermilion, crimson, cadmium, madder red.
Copyright © 2018 by Kimberly Johnson
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Kimberly Johnson is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Uncommon Prayer (Persea, 2004), and of book-length translations of Virgil (Penguin Classics, 2009) and Hesiod (Northwestern University Press, 2017). Recipient of grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she lives in Salt Lake City.
Since its inception in 2003, The Cincinnati Review has published many promising new and emerging writers as well as Pulitzer Prize winners and Guggenheim and MacArthur fellows. Poetry and prose from our pages have been selected to appear in the annual anthologies Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, New Stories from the South, Best American Short Stories, Best American Fantasy, Best American Mystery Stories, New Stories from the Midwest, and Best Creative Nonfiction.