Ut Pictura Poesis

John Constable, Cloud Study, 24.8cm x 30.2cm, 1821

[Listen to the poem]

Ut Pictura Poesis


In our garden off Tompkins Square Park,

today there are shelf clouds, huge flakes

of snow floating down to spindly hostas,

frozen rose buds, blanched ochre lichen,

purple crocuses leaning, half-cocksure

to come out on the bright green fence.

Pancake's gleaming cat’s eye angles off

a three-year old, who’s licking icicles,

and me-- dreaming of Finisterre, a time

of lonely, after-love walks to the sea,

afternoons at an outermost lighthouse.

For an instant, this picture is entirely

painted out in gold, but it soon gives in

to cramps, cold or other odd allurements.