2 Poems by Jefferson Holdridge

Giorgione_019
.
Madonna Lactans 
.
Omai sarà più corta mia favella,
pur a quel ch’io ricordo, che d’un fante
che bagni ancor la lingua a la mammella.
.
[Shorter henceforward will my language fall
Of what I yet remember, than an infant’s
Who still his tongue doth moisten at the breast].
Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradise
.
Somewhere on the edge of the inside
Of her loosened dress, the baby’s suckling
Where Maria’s clothes once were opened wide
And flowing milk paralleled Christ bleeding
From the cross, redeeming or giving wisdom
To those who fed as the infant had, until
After the religious wars and the Council
Of Trent forbade it even in supplication.
Before the Baroque, The Tempest of Giorgione
Has a mysterious nude nursing a child.
Eve with Cain? Virgin? Whore?  As unknown
As the storm is:  God’s anger?  The wild?
While we seek the Being who also needs us
Blesséd be the Breast that breastfeeds us.
.
Off center, her gaze as direct as his Venus is
Indirect, challenging as the scrutiny of Manet’s,
Rude as Titian’s in Urbino is seductive
Amid a rich interior not in Giorgione’s
Venus, as Titian knew while finishing it
In Giorgione’s enigmatic, poetic manner.
Soldier or shepherd looks at where they sit.
The infant aside reveals her pubic hair.
The riddle of The Tempest has led some
To view it as the first subjectless painting.
Perhaps we, the subjects, search for home
In this early paesaggio where we’re lingering
Within a stormy landscape that still needs us.
Blesséd be the Breast that breastfeeds us.
.
 
The Painter’s Riddle
.
Blue is the color of the distance
Leonardo said.  Was he thinking
Only of the sky, or missing
Someone loved?  Those changing tints
Of dark and pale blue draw the eye
To vanishing points behind the portrait
Or the sacred scene and suggest a place
And story, past or future, dimly lit,
That highlights the evanescent face,
The curls, the angelic knowing hints
Of joy and sadness, the painter’s riddle
Of the foreground, of starting high
On the canvass rather than the middle,
And why blue is the color of the distance.
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Director of Wake Forest University Press and Professor of English at WFU in North Carolina, Jefferson Holdridge is the author of two volumes of poetry, Eruptions (2013) and Devil’s Den and Other Poems (2015). A third volume, The Sound Thereof, is due out with Graft Poetry in Bradford, UK in 2017. He has written two critical books entitled Those Mingled Seas: The Poetry of W.B. Yeats, the Beautiful and the Sublime (2000) and The Poetry of Paul Muldoon (2008). He has also edited and introduced two volumes of The Wake Forest Series of Irish Poetry (2005; 2010), as well as Post-Ireland?  Essays on Contemporary Irish Poetry, which he co-edited and introduced with Brian O’Conchubhair (Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University Press, 2017).

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