(after Tiepolo's painting, in the National Gallery of Victoria)
Looking at that painting,
Which you love so much,
I see something new each time.
You cannot avoid the whippet's bum,
Or the little man, furtive, on the run.
Mark Antony broods, looks smug,
A smirk, a wink and hope for more than a hug.
Cleopatra knows the territory,
Hostessing has been her constant history.
She has launched barges of gold,
Burnished, men have been bought and sold.
Today we are playing for high stakes,
And we are all watching for the breaks.
Then, suddenly, pearl-drop into a goblet of vinegar,
A toast to the assembly and a gentle gesture.
The bet's won,
The pearl's done.
Over the years you will have seen
Time and time again
Cinematic repetition in black and white
The trains pulling into the stations
Buffer-end of travel
Journeys finished — for the time being —
And through the deliquescence of puff
You search for a visitor,
The visitor steps, platform-bound,
Searches for the host.
It is unsurprising
There is no meeting.
In the morning you will dip your toes
In the waves, tentative
Then walk and walk the sands
Take in the pier and think of the time
You took the ferry across the strait,
High custom given by a young friend
In gratitude for listening
Grace and gravity.
Memories are made of gratitude
The joy of thankfulness, Goneril
And Regan could never relish
Remembrance, reciprocity was not in their
Walking the sands and feeling the sift
You know few things
Nothing for certain
But caring sharing and giving
Are the tender of choice
The spirit is fed by gifts
And the horse-blanket always keeps you warm.
It's a seasonal gift
A legacy to embrace.
One thing — Oh! a contradiction indeed —
God gathers dust
Never hoards it
For he has new urns to make
For us to admire and, sometimes,
Miracles do happen
It might only be a small one,
______a dandelion dancing
in the heat of the day,
______it lands on you
______a moment of silver
______the melting of an icicle
__________________of a snowflake
_______________________thousands of stars
______snow on red berries
____________the bloodtide turns
____________the stars seek watchers
______patterns in simplicity
the miracle of friendship,
the warmth of embrace,
the celebration of dawn.
Peter Gebhardt is a retired school principal and judge. His most recent book is Black and White Onyx: New and Selected Poems 1988-2011.