Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Poem for Out of Darkness


Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew, 1599-1600
Oil on canvas, 10' 7 1/2" X 11' 2"
Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

My friend (and poet extraordinaire) Gregory Crosby wrote this wonderful poem in honor of the Out of Darkness (Into Light) exhibit, inspired by this powerful painting by the Baroque painter Caravaggio. (You can see some of the art included in this exhibit here.)

On Caravaggio’s Calling of Saint Matthew

The world is its own shadow.

In the house where everything
is counted, nothing gained,

the afternoon’s gold slips beneath
the pane, & dusk raises something

in hearts that will not otherwise rouse.
Someone is at the door. He lifts

his arm from this quotidian shade,
this everyday dark so rich it cannot

exist anywhere but in this world.
The sun seems to frame his head,

casting his profile into deeper shadow,
but it is his hand that gleams: languid,

simple, assured. His companion’s hand
shadows it, though this man’s gray

head as yet only catches the light
of day. Two sharps in sumptuary

turn toward the strangers; two men,
young & old, at the table’s end, see

nothing to stir them just yet from
silver… & a gold coin glints from

Levi’s black cap, glimmers thanks
to a brushstroke as subtle as Christ’s

halo, as the tax collector points
to himself in soft alarm, as if to say

Who, me? But his softer eyes betray him.
He knows, as if across the chapel’s dim

effulgence he sees himself, Matthew—
sees his martyrdom, & accepts it, like a

sum that cannot be wrong. This is how
it is. This is how the light arrives: without

fanfare, like any, every morning; a light
that reveals all darkness is only absence,

only shadow; the hand of light, paused,
midair, just below the terminus of the

shadow on the wall. The light, here;
the world, here; the world, elsewhere.


Gwen Buchanan said...

Angela, enjoyed the tour of the exhibit...what a show!! and I love Caravaggio..

his use of LIGHT has always truly humbled me...

Thank you

Angela Wales Rockett said...

Thank you, Gwen!
And Caravaggio… just stunning.

Tina Steele Lindsey Art said...

Powerful painting, powerful poem, thanks for sharing.