An old man paints the ocean
[For Ben Brooks Jr. (1920-1994)]
You, that old man who paints upon the seashore
behind your canvas: helmsman proudly at the wheel;
your windwhipped battered hat that daunts bright sunlight,
perched daring on your mane of grizzled steel.
Your gnarled hand deftly dabs in practiced brushstrokes
a paintbrush's precious pigment-laden trove
upon a canvas you are lovingly bestowing
the colors of the waves your dreams would know.
And should your crinkled silver eyes upon their journey
not take their notice of that sometime rain
of skyblue paint, or quiet tiny teardrop,
meandering your cheekbone's timecarved lines,
you'd bite your lower lip and stare intently
upon your palette blues and whites define.
And though I'd only known this side of you a short time,
a lifetime's patient practice stayed your faith --
so shimmering sunlight's touch could never fathom
those deep tanned craggy canyons of your face.
Could yet my eyes see all your canvas shows me --
white wheeling seagulls hung from bleachblue sky
like bright kites' endless sail on unseen tether,
that seek the white sand's seashells in their flight,
above pale dunes where swaying sea oats slumber
in twine-tied lattice's embrace.
So you would contemplate and capture sight and vision,
and how your eyes and hand remembered all
that stirred around you, yet still never notice
your easel slowly sinking in soft sand.
You would stand silent watch as God's creation
slept on in sea and sky and sand's embrace,
and distant waves in timeless turqouise fury
still crash ashore in whiteness' foaming spray 
one upon one, much like those days uncounted 
your life has spent in silent watchful gaze,
and in your quiet paintings you have given
who you have been as your gift back to me.
Jon Bohrn (1997)

 

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