Varnishing Days

Jeffrey Harrison

These days between late spring
and early summer are like paintings
already hanging but not yet finished
the week before the Summer Exhibition
(once the custom at the Royal Academy),
still waiting for their final touches
and smelling of linseed and turpentine:everything fresh, the paint still wet,
the taut sky primed with a wash of blue.
The Siberian irises, not yet
unfurling, their buds still tight,
look like paintbrushes saturated
with ultramarine; buttercups
spatter the meadow with yellow.From an arbor of scribbled vines,
blossom-clusters of wisteria
dangle, glistening with last night’s rain.
A wood thrush calls in liquid trills
from deep within the background’s
mass of pale, soft greens. The air
chills while the sun warms the scene.May these days remain unfinished
a while longer, with no artist
jostling his way in
to apply some final flourish
or a coat of varnish that will
only darken. Let the bumblebee
fumble among the blossoms.

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Jeffrey Harrison’s fifth book of poems, Into Daylight, won the Dorset Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Kenyon Review, and Best American Poetry.

The Southern Review

Spring 2018

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Louisiana State University

Co-Editor & Poetry Editor
Jessica Faust

The Southern Review is one of the nation’s premiere literary journals. Hailed by Time as “superior to any other journal in the English language,” we have made literary history since our founding in 1935. We publish a diverse array of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by the country’s—and the world’s—most respected contemporary writers.

The Southern Review … represents everything that is good in the world of literary publication. Their dedication to aesthetic quality has been the gold standard in literary publication for over seventy-five years.”
—James Lee Burke

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The New York Times

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