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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 4, December 2016
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Charles Tarlton
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA


The Trouble with Constable’s Cloudscapes

I am a man of the clouds

             —John Constable

Constable’s clouds stand still, while the clouds I’m watching here in Old Saybrook twist and turn, stretch and shred on the wind.

from a dream of sky
what had seemed so solid melts
asking what details
in the mind have to be stopped
long enough to take a picture

he found images
out to the top of the sky
between racing squalls
and cumulous heaps and tufts
painted no categories

In painting what he sees, the painter splits; he makes a mark, settles his sky, and turns to look again, but the clouds have rearranged themselves.

portraying motion
the landscape painter accepts
one accurate frame
the dance of leaves on the wind
to be insinuated

they are not only
still, these clouds, but seen up close
they’re only ripples
and patches of pale pigments
rough brushstrokes willy-nilly

Because his game of deception never works exactly as he’d planned, and because his leaves die without the wind under his brush, he painted in a fisherman.

what of the sketches
quickly made, can they catch it?
piled on each other
what do they communicate
of the endless flow of light?

you see what I see
and you believe I really
saw it just like this
but seas would have been rolling
the trees bending in the wind

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