Five Poems
for Andrew McDonald

Andrew Macdonald painting 1



Like a paper cape, a poncho
made of newsprint, printed matter,
the words and images floating through
bright patchworks are collaged in one
aerial view of a floral abstraction.

Blue rider-less horse by its peonies
negotiates a maze or two, and these
shades tell their own stories.

This fragile art object’s so easily torn,
so hard to display, you lay it out on
your drip-enlivened studio floor
and there it lies, a secret garden,
replete with messages, half painted over,
however contemplated or worn.


Horseback traveller paused a moment
turning to the sunset glow
through Roman campagna, how it meant
harmed lives reconciled within me …

But, Andrew, you were having none of it,
saying you couldn’t stand that yellow
in a Jan Both I had found
at the Dulwich Picture Gallery –

and I was thrown back on myself
wondering what got into you,
my stay against confusion judged
by another light not seen on land or sea.



Though the heart of play is ludicrous,
art’s faun-like, Dionysian,
your master of the gay saber.

For at the heart of play is this
stress, distress, the boys’ day carp
swollen, streaming in a breeze.

Then there’s a central tenderness
as with some free-form pottery,
the chance-glazed kneaded clay …

and here’s this same expression
in words to a philologist,
phlogiston, something I might say

mid-flow, mid-conversation.



Umbilical rocks, those six brown boulders,
high-lit, floating on their shadows
over a grey and viridian ground,
they’re connected together by the darker thread …

But how ever did they get here?
What must have been said?



With hot light cutting through leafage,
that red eye amidst thick jungle
verdure’s like a cannon fired,
last minute, by Turner on Varnishing Day.

It comes as mute nostalgia
for native landscape, boxed away.
But is it then a threat or promise?
You couldn’t say.



Certainly, through ultramarine,
a great white cloud above the land
shines out as if from another scene;
yet now, in all that wind,
the moor has turned to waves; beyond,
is there parched heath or strand?
Then could that cloud be surf,
or the deep sky, sea?


Home is where the paintings are,
as I wrote in your epithalamium.
Then even if I Think I’m Banned
might well be turned face to the wall,
yours, with a parrot by Edward Lear,
they’re on display back from the door.

Still, given nobody can live
their lives like they were finished art
and you wouldn’t want to have it found
in the attic, a picture of Dorian Gray,
let’s live with art as best we can,
a valentine for Sylvia, a birthday.


Andrew Macdonald painting 2

Peter Robinson reads Five Poems - mp3


[Peter Robinson's 2020 publications are a sequence for poems, Bonjour Mr Inshaw, from Two Rivers Press, and the literary criticism Poetry & Money: A Speculation from Liverpool University Press. The Personal Art: Essays and Reviews is due from Shearsman Books in 2021. He is a professor of literature at the University of Reading and poetry editor for Two Rivers Press.]

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