At ten a.m. I stole away from your bright white room,
boarded the bus and the train, then exited past black umbrellas,
the big obscene obelisk and naked, rain-soaked cherry trees.
I walked down along the wall of the Vietnam Memorial,
down into the earth, to the year you were born.
When we were seven and nine
we pocketed our latchkeys and marched off to school
with milk money in our shoes,
slow enough to count every BEWARE OF DOG,
every tall kid punching the air,
every newspaper and frost-covered lawn,
so slow that sometimes the bell rang
while we were walking and then—then, brother,
I must have looked at you with something like hate,
for you let out a little wheeze, sat down on the curb,
and I ran and ran till you were a small thing in the distance,
a comma, bent and pausing for breath.
And now look at me: all week I've been walking
as slowly as I can to your bright white room,
the machine breathing for you,
slack bags of red and amber,
tubes going in and taking away.
I walk slowly to the cafeteria,
slowly to the bathroom, slowly to the hotel,
and I walked slowly this morning at eleven a.m.
past fifty-eight thousand, one hundred seventy-eight names,
slowly to the year 1973
and they are too young, all of them.
Brother, this is what I hated:
knowing, even at seven,
that there was no time left,
that I had to go the rest of the way without you.
facture /'fak-chur/ noun
[a. F. facture, ad. L. factura, f. facere to make]
The quality of the execution of a
picture, esp. of its surface.
—The Oxford English Dictionary,
Second Ed., 1989
The grain of the paper or the weft of the canvas
will affect the visibility of the brush strokes.
San Francisco was a sheet with a lot of tooth to it,
an ungessoed canvas. Despite my best efforts
at being a fijnschilder,
fan brushes and feathers
couldn’t smooth me out. I had until then
been mannered and minimal more than real.
Vermeer lick finish gave way to Van Gogh impasto,
studio to en plein air.
Finding the right
medium helped me move between these extremes.
A palette of bruise hues—green gray black
brown blue—became my signature.
Brent Calderwood is a San Francisco writer and
musician. His essays and reviews appear widely. His poems have appeared in American
Poetry Journal, Poets
& Artists, The
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, Gertrude, Art & Understanding, modern words, and in the books Poets 11 and Solace in So Many Words. He has twice been the recipient
of Lambda Literary Foundation Fellowships for poetry, and he was named 2010
poet laureate of San Francisco's Sunset District by the San Francisco Public
Library. His website is www.brentcalderwood.com.