Art and a Poem, Day 9, January 8, 2014

Luncheon of the Boating Party Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1881


After the Storm

Billy Collins

Soft yellow-gray light of early  morning,

butter and wool,

the two bedroom windowns

still beaded and streaked with rain.

The world calm again, routine with traffic,

after its night of convulsions,

when storm drains closed at the throat,

and trees shook in the wind like the hair of dryads.

In the silent house, its roof still on,

too early for the heat to come whistling up

and the guest room doors still closed,

I am propped up on these pillows,

a gray, moth-eaten cashmere jersey

wrapped around my neck

against the unbroken cold of last night.

I am thinking about the dinner party,

the long table, dark bottles of Merlot,

the odd duck and brussels sprouts,

and how, after midnight,

with all of us sprawled on the couch and floor,

the power suddenly went out

leaving us to feel our way around

in the tenth-century darkness

until we found and lit a stash of candles

then drew the circle of ourselves a little lighter

in this softer hula of lights

that gleamed in mirrors and on rims of glasses

while the shutters banged and the rain lashed down.

A sweet nut of a memory–

but the part that sends me whirring

in little ovals of wonder,

as the leftover clouds break apart

and the sun brightly stripes these walls,

is the part that came later,

hours after we had each carried a candle

up the shadowy staircase and gone to bed.

It was three, maybe four in the morning

when the power surged back on,

and, as if a bookmark

had been inserted into the party

when the lamps went dark,

now all the lights downstairs flared again,

and form the stereo speakers

up through the heat register

into our bedroom and our sleep

blared the sound of Jimmy Reed

singing “Baby What You Want Me to Do”

just where he had left off.

So the party resumed without us,

the room again aglow with a life of its own,

the night air charged

with guitar and harmonica,

until one of us put on slippers,

went down to that blazing, festive emptiness,

and turned everything off.

Then, without lights or music,

even the ghosts of ourselves

had to break up their party,

snub out their cigarettes,

carry their wineglasses to the kitchen,

where they kissed each other good night,

and with nowhere else to go,

floated vaguely upstairs

to lie down beside us in our dark and quiet beds.

I’ve long been a fan of Renoir’s work, particularly this painting and I always suspected this party lasted long after the boat docked. Perhaps turning into some kind of rager at the lakeside home of one of the participants. I was introduced to Billy Collins in a poetry seminar in college. This poem is from his collection Picnic, Lightning. We studied it along with other poets in addition to writing our own poetry. Shortly after that semester, Billy Collins was named Poet Laureate of the US. When I chose this pic, this poem immediately popped into my head. I am pretty sure that after that raucous boat party that went indoors, something like this would happen…anyway. I hope you all enjoy this beautiful  picture and lovely poem.