Today's poem is by William Wenthe

Thames Music
        after James McNeill Whistler

Groan of hawser as barge heaves:
tide lipping the shingle shore,
ruffling below the bridge pier,

wavelets the dripping oar
bleeds into ... as colors bleed . . . ?
It is night, the river traffic moored,

and you sketch what you can,
of building, bridge, barge—
silhouettes in charcoal,

strokes: suggestions. As if
precomposing the lines of the staff
upon which, come daylight, you'll trim

the notes of harmonized color. Reaching
for music, you called them Nocturnes,
after Chopin, who named a mood

on the keyboard for a time of night
that holds in abeyance
the thrum of day. And you:

Can you paint
music—that crafting of sound
and silence, self-reflective

order "all art aspires to,"
as gin-slurred, sesquipedalian Swinburne
was prone to emote?

Today, in a hushed gallery
of the Tate, I'm sitting ten paces away
from Nocturne: Blue and Silver

Cremorne Lights.
Twenty-two notes of gold
train a slow melody

of gas lamps on the shoreline, reflected
in counterpoint in the water.
But as I'm watching, slowly

sky and river, their one
infusion of color, lift
out of the frame

and resonate—no, not music,
but what music shadows,
some great being, being quiet.

Copyright © 2012 William Wenthe All rights reserved
from the Southern Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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