Word and Thing
–Wind II, oil on masonite, by Jim Shull
The painting, a coastal landscape, is titled
“Wind,” but the word I think, gazing
up at it on the living-room wall,
is anvil—definite shape
of the dune that thrusts
clear across the view.
I’ve never seen an anvil, save
in a living museum, with staff
in period dress—how is it then
that any instance of its distinctive shape
calls up its name, as if a blacksmith
hammered iron across the street?
The thing long gone
from daily life, the word
has stayed and spread,
attaching to whatever shares
the shape of a flattened tusk,
from thunderclouds to a tiny bone
in the middle ear. But worrying the word,
I get mere silhouette, this black text
on a white page. I’ve left behind
the painted scene—
the scrubby shore pine,
roots exposed, trunk
warped horizontal by the seawind,
bending its full length down across
the wind-carved body of the dune.
I’ve lost the ocean mist that has coated
all the bristling needles of the pine,
the shadow clinging underneath
the near dune’s jut,
the lion’s-pelt yellow
of sand without shade,
failed to tell how the paint creates
at once a flat design—still dance
of hue and tone—and a world
of dune and pine, palpably round.
Eleanor Berry lives in rural western Oregon. She has two full-length poetry collections, Green November (Traprock Books, 2007) and No Constant Hues (Turnstone Books of Oregon, 2015). A former college teacher of English, she is a past president of the Oregon Poetry Association and of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.