To His Lost Lover
from A Book of Matches, 1993, Faber
Simon Armitage, British born 1963
Poet Laureate, United Kingdom, assumed May 2019
Now they are no longer any trouble to each other
he can turn things over, get down to that list
of things that never happened,
Love Cross, 1968 screenprint.
Robert Indiana, American, 1928 – 2018. Philadelphia Museum of Art
all of the lost
For instance… for instance,
how he never clipped and kept her hair,
East Market Street Antiques, Red Hook, mid-Hudson Valley, New York state. Now closed
or drew a hairbrush
through that style of hers, and never knew how not to blush
at the fall of her name in close company.
How they never slept like buried cutlery –
two spoons or forks cupped perfectly together,
The tines of a fork wrapping a piece of Navaho turquoise. Artisanal work. Philadelphia, 2000
or made the most of some heavy weather –
The Thunder Shower, c. 1917, tempera on wood.
H. Lymen Sayen, 1875-1918, American. Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
A student of Henri Matisse.
walked out into hard rain under sheet lightning,
Rain: lithograph and screenprint, 1976.
David Hockney, born 1937, British. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
or did the gears while the other was driving.
Gear, c. 1922, oil on canvas.
Arthur Garfield Dove, 1880-1946, American. Philadelphia Museum of Art
How he never raised his fingertips
to stop the segments of her lips
from breaking the news,
Everything Has Failed! Don’t You Think It is Time for Love? 2007. Spray paint on paper part of a 5-channel video installation
Sharon Hayes, born 1970, American. MOMA, NY
or tasted the fruit
or picked for himself the pear of her heart,
or lifted her hand to where his own heart
was a small, dark, terrified bird
in her grip. Where it hurt.
In the Hand, oil on tempered Masonite, 1957.
John Wilde, 1919-2006, American. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Or said the right thing,
or put it in writing.
Love sculpture, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1970, Cor-Ten steel.
Robert Indiana, 1928-2018, American.
And never fled the black mile back to his house
before midnight, or coaxed another button of her blouse,
or knew her
her taste, her flavour,
and never ran a bath or held a towel for her,
or soft-soaped her, or whipped her hair
into an ice-cream cornet or a beehive
Untitled (Woman’s Profile), 1936, Decalcomania (ink transfer) on paper.
Marcel Jean, 1900-1993, French. MOMA, NY
or acted out of turn, or misbehaved
when he might have, or worked a comb
where no comb had been,
Combs from the south and the north of Ethiopia
or walked back home
through a black mile hugging a punctured heart,
where it hurt, where it hurt, or helped her hand
to his butterfly heart
Abstraction Blue, 1927, oil on canvas.
Georgia O’Keefe, 1887-1986, American. MOMA, NY
This painting marks the artist’s move to abstraction, a decision she made in 1915.
in its two blue halves.
And never almost cried,
and never once described
an attack of the heart,
or under a silk shirt
nursed in his hand her breast,
Briarpatch Blues, 2014, seriagraph, relief print with chine colle.
Alison Saar, American born 1956. Photo from the website of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
her left, like a tear of flesh
wept by the heart,
where it hurts,
or brushed with his thumb the nut of her nipple,
Detail of Briarpatch Blues, woodcut printing plate, no date given.
Alison Saar, American born 1956. Loaned to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2017 by Lafayette College, Pennsylvania
or drank intoxicating liquors from her navel.
Or christened the Pole Star in her name,
or shielded the mask of her face like a flame,
Untitled and undated. Marisa Merz, 1926-2019, Italian.
Loan by the Glenstone Museum, Potomac, MD to the Philadelphia Art Museum in memoriam, 2019
a pilot light,
or stayed the night,
The Critic Smiles, embossed lead relief, with gold and tin foil additions. ?Date
Jasper Johns, American born 1930. On view at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021/22
or steered her back to that house of his,
A log house on Lawrence Street, Philadelphia
A man came to Philadelphia from West Virginia fifty or so years ago.
He built this house on a small street in an area of the city named Northern Liberties by William Penn. He could not have done this with the usual zoning permissions. He has been allowed to keep the house. New housing has edged him all around now.
or said “Don’t ask me how it is
I like you.
I just might do.”
How he never figured out a fireproof plan,
or unravelled her hand, as if her hand
were a solid ball
of silver foil
The Proverbial Worm; mixed fibers and laser-cut acrylics.
Ed Bing Lee now in his 80’s, lives in the eastern United States. Snyderman Gallery (now closed), Philadelphia.
and discovered a lifeline hiding inside it,
and measured the trace of his own alongside it.
Life, 1994, offset print. Mitsuo Katsui, Japanese born 1931.
Private collection loan to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2017
But said some things and never meant them –sweet
nothings anybody could have mentioned.
And left unsaid some things he should have spoken,
about the heart, where it hurt exactly, and how often.
Somebody Stole My Broken Heart, 2005, five-colour lithograph on Arches Cover white paper.
Faith Ringgold, American born 1930. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia