Gayle J. Greenlea - A poem of light and shadow
Chiaroscuro: Ode to Three Artists
To Georgia O’Keeffe
You beheld beauty in bleached angular bones
blooming in fields of burnt sienna,
seeing nothing grim about their smoothness
or the way they framed the moon at night.
How many times you painted that moon
showing through a hollow of bone
against a backdrop of transfiguring sky:
azure, aubergine, blazing yellow and orange.
Who, but you, would conceive a moon where the sun should be?
With poetic license you mark the phases, passages and cycles of life.
Your paintbrush shames death. Under your hand,
the desert becomes a rising place where the wind
blows and dry bones draw breath and live.
(Between 1985-1886, Van Gogh painted "Head of a Woman.“)
Their eyes are more powerful than cathedrals, you said,
and you did not mean the dreamy eyes
of delicate girls with dazzling smiles. The eyes
you saw as portals to the human soul were
ordinary eyes set in the plain, irregular face
of a woman weary with days and work.
Of all the handsome women you might have painted,
you chose a simple barmaid.
She was the true beauty, you said,
"lively and piquant a la Frans Hals."
And you signed your name, "Vincent,"
as a symbol of solidarity with the powerless who have
no last names to carry them into the future –
you, brother to the working class
whose faces shone on your canvasses
like Old Master icons.
When this darkness descends in a blue haze
I am in a primordial cave,
bones buried deep in the earth,
gasping for air.
My soul is somewhere else – pulled
by a string into the ozone.
I am too dry for tears
and so blue paint falls from my brush
as I float in thin air,
waiting for a change of weather.
Gayle J. Greenlea
Gayle J. Greenlea began writing poetry at age eight, inspired by a love of trees which has remained a central theme throughout her life. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, she now resides in Sydney, Australia where she works as a professional Counselour and Spiritual Care Practitioner in the health system.
A peace and justice advocate for more than three decades, Gayle has worked to further multicultural and interfaith collaboration, provide care and support in the gay community, promote prevention of violence and sexual abuse and ameliorate healing for survivors. She holds an MDiv in theological studies from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus Ohio and is recipient of the Anna Seidler Award for Systematic Theology, 1988.
One of her poems was commissioned for the Fair-Well to Violence event in San Antonio, Texas in 1995, and she has written liturgy and presided as Celebrant for gatherings of the National Association of Mental Illness and the National Hispanic Ministries Conference for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She has worked as both a print and broadcast journalist, Press Secretary for the Democratic Party and Get Out the Vote in Texas, and co-authored a paper on Spirituality and Health, published in the Australian Health Review, March 2010. Her poem, "Wonderland," received the PROD award from Australian Poetry in 2011.
In addition to poetry, Gayle is writing a novel, sings and plays guitar and dabbles in photography, art, quantum physics, string theory, and cosmology. She has a passion for theatre, nature, Space, cats, coffee, chocolate, cooking, Spanish language and culture, human rights and the dignity of all creatures.