Guest poem submitted by Sunil Iyengar:
(Poem #503) Anonymous Drawing
A delicate young Negro stands With the reins of a horse clutched loosely in his hands; So delicate, indeed, that we wonder if he can hold the spirited creature beside him Until the master shall arrive to ride him. Already the animal's nostrils widen with rage or fear. But if we imagine him snorting, about to rear, This boy, who should know about such things better than we, Only stands smiling, passive and ornamental, in a fantastic livery Of ruffles and puffed breeches, Watching the artist, apparently, as he sketches. Meanwhile the petty lord who must have paid For the artist's trip up from Perugia, for the horse, for the boy, for everything here, in fact, has been delayed, Kept too long by his steward, perhaps, discussing Some business concerning the estate, or fussing Over the details of his impeccable toilet With a manservant whose opinion is that any alteration at all would spoil it. However fast he should come hurrying now Over this vast greensward, mopping his brow Clear of the sweat of the fine Renaissance morning, it would be too late: The artist will have had his revenge for being made to wait, A revenge not only necessary but right and clever -- Simply to leave him out of the scene forever.
Since we're showcasing poems that deal with commerce between the visual and literary arts, I thought some readers might enjoy this one. Justice was a student of, among others, John Berryman, whose painterly poem, "Winter Landscape" (after Brueghel) we read some days previously. That poem seems to me more elegant in its compression; but, of course, Berryman wasn't aiming for the glib wit of the Justice piece. Long lines with delayed terminal rhymes (see lines 3, 12, and 16) call to mind Ogden Nash, yet Justice manages to escape the light verse genre by his severe punchline: the ruthless omissions of artistic choice. Small consolation for the slave, maybe, but a kind of Justice seems to have been served by the slaveholder's extinction. By claiming that the poet has eluded "the light verse genre," incidentally, I do not wish to cast aspersions on the form. In many a poem, Justice shows memorably what can be done with light verse proper, how it can surpass our expectations. Sunil Iyengar.