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Varnishing Days

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.

from Between LakesFind more by Jeffrey Harrison at the library

Copyright © 2020 Jeffrey Harrison
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Jeffrey Harrison Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.