04/17/08

THE TACIT BREEZE OF STYLE

This poem was written by poet William Oxley, who kindly volunteered as a steward during Anthony Green’s one man, retrospective at the Spanish Barn, in Torquay.THE TACIT BREEZE OF STYLE  by William Oxley

This poem was written by poet William Oxley, who kindly volunteered as a steward during Anthony Green’s one man, retrospective at the Spanish Barn, in Torquay.THE TACIT BREEZE OF STYLE  by William Oxley

This huge, wood-roofed barn restored
where the Armada's losers, swarthy Spaniards
were imprisoned. Now a cool
sequestered place for tourism and art.
This silent autumn afternoon
I invigilate the paintings of a man
about to die. Carcinoma-flowered, floored,
his self-portrait hung a yard away
from me, and other works, liberal
distributions of colour and limpid line
around the walls. How creative they make
the historic silence of the place
where now the painter's ghost will trawl
this gallery and others I cannot see.
Self-painted like some boxer stripped to the waist,
I rest my eyes on his pale torso
and face of bearded delicacy, mandarin-like
as some provincial official in Tu Fu's China.
A face without coarseness, almost prayer-fine,
noble-gentle and gently noble. In calm
pigment and line of softest silver he speaks
to me, who, in life, spoke only twice with him
in words, and only of inconsequential things.
How did he look just then? I had to say
it to myself, 'Like one surprised by death';
and I was sad to know how true it was,
this present self-portrait, having learned
but an hour before that, having seen this
exhibition of his life's work, he'd left
to close his eyes on Torbay and its sea
and this world's great canvas forever.
Yet the air inside the ancient barn remained creative,
and I was honoured to walk beside him,
glass in hand, through silent, vibrant
landscapes of painting, each fanned
by the tacit breeze of style.