The Guggenheim Fellowship Poem

 

          Do they still write “The Guggenheim Fellowship Poem,”
          which takes place in Italy–in Venice, often, but sometimes Florence
          with side trips to Siena, and maybe Arezzo, and certainly Ravenna,
          and once in a while Naples? The poet goes to a museum in a flimsy skirt
          in the fierce heat and the eyes of the men are upon her
          as she walks on the hot stone street and she wears sunglasses
          in the Audrey Hepburn fashion but all pretense and fancy melt
          when she comes face to face with Titian’s La Bella
          or the Penitent Magdalene at the Pitti Palace
          or Donatello’s naked bronze David at the Bargello
          or a Perugino fresco of the Crucifixion
          or Piero’s Madonna and Child in Urbino
          or Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch at the Uffizi
          or a Giorgione self-portrait in Venice, which is a vision
          of her father or her husband, she’s not sure which,
          though she will spend hours analyzing the possibilities, but this
          she knows this: it was a sudden flash, an epiphany even,
          like seeing a broken statue and knowing you had to change your life.

 

Robert Desnos

                                                            for Ron Horning

          I do not know whether a point is possible,
          A new beginning, an end less arbitrary
          Than my own death; but I have talked so much
          Of gods, dreamed their whispering absences
          So much, that when I keep silent
          Those moments before death, I feel I am listening
          To the listening of the gods.

                                                            (1973)
          
          
          
          
          
DAVID LEHMAN is the author of Yeshiva Boys (2009), When a Woman Loves a Man (2005), The Evening Sun (2002), The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry (1998), and other books. Lehman has also written collaborative books of poetry, including Poetry Forum (2007), with Judith Hall, and Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man (2005), a collection of sestinas he wrote with the poet James Cummins. He edits The Best American Poetry series.