By Blake Leland
To hear Blake Leland read his poems, please click on the player below each title.
Because she said yes I no longer wake in the night
rising up out of dreamdeeps, breaching surfaces of sleep,
tossing blankets off to find myself afloat,
alone on the bed, listening to the creak and shuffle
of an empty house adjusting itself to the weather;
I don't roll myself upright, fumble into slippers,
pull on the bathrobe, feel for the lighter,
the cigarettes, the glasses, then slide out the back door
looking for stars like the hosts of stars night wind
shook loose from the oaks when I was a boy
knowing I'll find only a pale smattering of them
to stare down at me while I fart and smoke
and find myself, like Keats (yes, tell yourself:
"like Keats"), half in love with easeful death and,
listening for a nightingale, hear instead
an airplane and a barking dog—easeful death indeed; O
go smoke another cigarette…
But she said yes, and I have been
where I could see the Milky Way again.
Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, 1565
HUNTERS IN SNOW
It’s been cold a while now—
The trees are leafless, the mill pond
Last night it snowed.
Today black branches
Still hold the snow
That comes up only
To the hunters’ ankles.
A mixed pack of slim or long-eared hounds
Follows them home.
Hunters and dogs move
Over the hill’s crest,
Heads bent, tired,
Their eyes on the blank ground.
They don’t see the valley
Spread below them—ice and sky both
The same green,
Those steep, improbable mountains,
Glad that they have nothing else
To do but play.
They don’t see the birds
Perched above them,
Or the odd, long-tailed bird
That has launched itself
Into the chill air
Of the painter’s eye,
High and low, near
In a weightless moment
Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656
LA FAMILIA DE PHILIP IV
They look to themselves in that large glass
As they might look to the King and the Queen.
(later called Las Meninas)
The artist, left-handed, holds his brush
In his right hand. The Infanta,
Three years later, parts her hair
The other way.
Who will see themselves
As they are seen—distant, hazy,
Not quite there?
The King and Queen.
Paul Cézanne, The Large Bathers, 1900-05, The Barnes Foundation.
There’s a basket of big peaches and half a melon on the grass.
In the foreground, asleep, a purplish dog,
Its snout tucked under a white paw. Of the hefty
Demoiselles at their picnic and skinny-dip
One is surely called Diane.
To our left a monumental grotesque
Wraps herself in towering clouds. To our right
A figure suspiciously slim-hipped and barrel-chested,
With rather a dark mustache, listens,
Leaning up against a tree whose leafless branches
(if we squint a bit) seem to sprout
Like antlers from the half-turned head.
The green plastic flowerpot
that we left out on the deck all winter
has got, this spring, a half-dozen
small sunflowers rising up out of it.
They’re not spectacular: small (as I’ve said)
and spindly, and three of them
can’t stand straight. They don’t
measure up to the other flowers—the new
geraniums, petunias, lantanas,
the hibiscus, and walking iris.
But they weren’t store-bought,
and we didn’t plant them there;
that’s something the birds did,
while they were doing something else.
what came up from the pots
on the deck out back
mostly: for seed
Leslie scatters to the birds,
with staining berries—
I made with them
a purple ink
to write this with.
Blake Leland has taught in Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication since 1988. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Epoch, Indiana Review, Atlanta Review, Commonweal, Maryland Poetry Review and other venues.