Chicago and December by W.S. Di Piero

matt maidre chicago

Chicago and December
by W.S. Di Piero

Trying to find my roost
one lidded, late afternoon,
the consolation of color
worked up like neediness,
like craving chocolate,
I’m at Art Institute favorites:
Velasquez’s Servant,
her bashful attention fixed
to place things just right,
Beckmann’s Self-Portrait,
whose fishy fingers seem
never to do a day’s work,
the great stone lions outside
monumentally pissed
by jumbo wreaths and ribbons
municipal good cheer
yoked around their heads.
Mealy mist. Furred air.
I walk north across
the river, Christmas lights
crushed on skyscraper glass,
bling stringing Michigan Ave.,
sunlight’s last-gasp sighing
through the artless fog.
Vague fatigued promise hangs
in the low darkened sky
when bunched scrawny starlings
rattle up from trees,
switchback and snag
like tossed rags dressing
the bare wintering branches,
black-on-black shining,
and I’m in a moment
more like a fore-moment:
from the sidewalk, watching them
poised without purpose,
I feel lifted inside the common
hazards and orders of things
when from their stillness,
the formal, aimless, not-waiting birds
erupt again, clap, elated weather-
making wing-clouds changing,
smithereened back and forth,
now already gone to follow
the river’s running course.

SOURCE: Poetry (June 2006)

PHOTO: The Art Institute of Chicago during the 2008 winter holidays. Photo by Matt Maidre, All Rights Reserved.

nighthawks

NOTE: The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Recognized for its curatorial efforts and popularity among visitors, the museum hosts approximately 1.5 million people each year. Its collection includes iconic works such as Georges Seurat‘s A Sunday on La Grande JattePablo Picasso‘s The Old GuitaristEdward Hopper‘s Nighthawks, and Grant Wood‘s American Gothic. Its permanent collection of nearly 300,000 works of art is augmented by more than 30 special exhibitions mounted yearly that illuminate aspects of the collection and present cutting-edge curatorial and scientific research. The growth of the collection has warranted several additions to the museum’s 1893 building, which was constructed for the World’s Columbian Exposition. The most recent expansion, the Modern Wing designed by Renzo Piano, opened in 2009 and increased the museum’s footprint to nearly one million square feet, making it the second-largest art museum in the United States, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Art Institute is associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a leading art school, making it one of the few remaining unified arts institutions in the United States. Students include Georgia O’Keeffe, Claes Oldenburg, and Grant Wood.

IMAGE: Nighthawks by Edward Hopper (1942), Friends of American Art Collection, the Art Institute of Chicago.

dipiero

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: W.S. Di Piero was born in 1945 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and earned his BA from St. Joseph’s College and MA from San Francisco State College. A poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, Di Piero has taught at institutions such as Northwestern University, Louisiana State University, and Stanford, where he is professor emeritus of English and on faculty in the prestigious Stegner Poetry Workshop. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, Di Piero was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2012. W.S.  He has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. He lives in San Francisco, California.

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