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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume One Nov-Dec 2023
The Wooden Palette, poems by Richard W. Halperin.
The Wooden Palette
After a year, the oils of the pigments
one has used on a good wooden palette
have penetrated the palette so that
one wipe of the cloth can make it clean.
But the palette remembers. The oils
are within, and some stains on top are
permanent. Some of the writing I live with
is that. Charlotte Brontë’s Villette.
Yeats’s Purgatory. Macdara Woods’
letter to me about Sunset Boulevard.
Pentimento has something to do with it.
Oil and wood, which are my siblings –
Saint Francis stopped too soon –
have something to do with it.
The painting is there. But I am the palette.
This morning I exchanged hellos and good wishes
with a young fellow who last summer had briefly
been a waiter at my usual café. He was passing
en route to wherever he was going. This time
when I saw him, I thought: May he, with his
optimism and cleanness, and others of his
generation, work at dragging a little further
into the light our dysfunctional race, as some
in my generation and in all previous ones have
worked at doing – and if we are outnumbered,
so what? Waking this morning – so, before
the avenue Duquesne – I remembered
Hudson River light: mellow, full, quiet. There
it is, without anybody. All the best, young fellow.
The Right Lady Is the Wrong Lady
I am having breakfast on the terrace
of the corner bakery, rue d’Estrées
and avenue de Villars. I see at a distance
a very old lady, bent nearly double,
walking with a cane. She and I
always wave when I am on that terrace.
Closer, she is not that old lady,
she is another old lady,
and in fact she turns a corner.
Neither lady is The Bread Lady,
as I have come to call her: a slim
middle-aged woman always in
a simple frock, bicycling each
morning to the bakery to take
yesterday’s unsold bread to those
in need. She rides away with the wind
blowing her hair, which she keeps
short and fluffy as did so many
ladies when I was growing up.
The right lady is the wrong lady.
They are all the right lady.
© Richard W. Halperin
Richard W. Halperin holds Irish-U.S. dual nationality and lives in Paris. He is published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher (four collections since 2010) and Lapwing/Belfast (sixteen shorter collections since 2014). In 2024 Salmon will bring out Selected and New Poems, drawing upon the twenty collections and including thirty new poems – Introduction by Joseph Woods – on the occasion of Mr Halperin’s eightieth birthday.