He mocks me with his past accomplishments.
I turn the pages of the scrapbook Ruth
has kept through years of triumph, hope, despair.
The edges of the yellowed clippings curl
as if the heat of words once written down
have angrily consumed this record of the past.
He sits behind a multi-colored magazine
extolling Irish meadows green from sun,
one eye on me, his other eye locked on a page
heís glanced at twenty times and more today.
At last I sigh my resignation at his art.
I shut the clippings back into their cage
of red and gold leathered elegance.
"One critic says youíre sweet as sap," I say
He drops his Ireland on his lap and snorts.
"Three days ago a woman at an Arts, Inc.
meeting said the same," he said. "She said
she was a sculptor too. As fat as walruses,
she said she did reliefs with carpet squares.
If that is sculpture, then Iím sweet as sap."
"Well, Michelangelo was sweet sometimes,"
I say. "The great Pietaís sweet in stone.
The sadness smoothed into the motherís face
reflects the pain caused by the Christís cold peace."
He clears his throat. "Your Michelangelo
is muscle-bound," he says. "Heís like I was
when I was young--all for the realistic line.
When he was young he snuck into a monasteryís morgue
and spent the wee hours of the night with dead
men, cutting up their flesh to find the bone
and muscle structures underneath their skin.
He models more than sculpts. He had a skill.
I canít dispute that. Still, artís more than skill."
"Youíre such a sage," I say. "Youíve got art down
into a set of words that plunder through your years
and fossilize all that youíve got to say
into an attitude unmovable and cold."
He laughs, my barb pained in his shining eyes.
"Iíve made mistakes," he barks. He thumps his chest.
"My heartbeats falter with mistakes Iíve made."
I put the clippings on the couch and stand.
"Letís go outside," I say. "Weíre clashing tongues
when we should be out tramping in the snow."
He grabs his coat and hat as I grab mine.
And as I watch into his eyes and face
I suddenly become aware of some sweet radiance
inside the way he moves his strong, square hands.
"Your fawn is sweet," I say. "Its ears perk up
toward the sky; the tension in its neck
sweeps up into the liquid of its head;
the muscles of its flank strain taut against
the immobility of stone-carved eyes.
Lifeís sweetness perks into the tension built
into the fawnís incredible alert."
He grunts, then walks out through the front-room door.
The coming spring is formed as droplets bright
with sun against the dark of maple bark.
Icicles glisten hanging from the boughs of pine
that trail in green platoons into the woods.
We walk, the dying winterís air sharp, brisk,
a hint away from warmth and sun and spring.
"The yellowing of age upsets your apple cart,"
he says. "The clippings represent accomplishments
once known, now yellow/faint, forgotten, lost
by everyone but you and Ruth and me.
Youíre wondering what all your writing means
if it grows yellow as the years pass by."
"Sweetness isnít always rotten at its core,"
I say. "Nor is it all that far removed
from life. Lifeís sweet sometimes. Springís almost here."
"In school they say that artís immortal, strong,"
he says. "Theyíre wrong, of course. Thereís politics
in art, and fashion-thoughts that make an art
out of the dribblings of a would-be artistís mind.
My stone is permanant. I give it form,
and then that form begins to deteriorate
into the stoneís last form as powdered dust."
I stop. The ruts sliced in the frozen road
make walking hard. Hands dominate Jim Gehr.
They form his substance, square, strong, graceful, large.
The days seem yellow in the waning light.
The sun appears to burn into itself,
consuming fire as droplets shine of scattered fire
and icicles glisten as they melt away.
"Then artists shouldnít capture sweet, soft lives,"
I say. "They ought to line and mass decay
and rail against injustice birthed in time.
A walrus ought to do reliefs with carpet squares.
The clipped accomplishments yellow anyway."
He smiles. "Youíre not so dumb," he says. "And I
am not so sweet. Iím rotten to the core."
I turn and walk back to the A-frame house.
He stands inside a road rut, competent, benign,
a comprehending air about his face.