Original poem reprinted online here: "Incomplete Lioness" by Linda Bierds
Originally read: October 4, 2013
More information about the Poet: Linda Bierds
A part of me knows this is an eckphrastic piece because of the reference in the beginning, but I don't know the art piece this refers to. But the description of the sculpture opens interpretations to craft.
But first a comparison, "or lion" which indicates something gender-centric, or an incomplete lioness is equivalent to "a lion" -- this is what I mean by open interpretations using an either/or strategy, and specific language based on construction, "affixed to a bone-like armature, just a flank / and scored shoulder, and far down the missing / crouching shape, a single, splay- toed paw." Art is about the small, but specific details like "missing" and "scored" could be interpreted as interpretations based on craft, "The companion, or mate, is better formed / and offers a template to trace a bit, image to absence / to memory, until lioness fills" The comparison to a complete form versus an incomplete one. Note, there's no judgement calls here and this is key to open interpretations.
The next stanza opens outward with the naming of the exhibit, and then the different parts of the museum where, "the painter, retinas tattered / as a saint's hem, might have filled a lioness / differently: absence first, then memory." Note the different reiteration of memory in these lines along with the idea of the creator versus the creation.
And then note how the creator and the creation blurs in the third stanza with, "His century failed him, / a placard says" not a judgement call from history or the speaker, but a placard so the failure is mostly a snapshot rather than insight, "nearsightedly, which would explain / the perfect stones, less perfect trees. Or perhaps / his partial sightlessness was corneal" and here the speaker is trying to figure out the base of "loss of something" can be constructed -- nearsightedness? which then leads to, "and thus / the painter's mood, front-lit gauze." The mood adds to the absence.
But then the speaker used the either/or dilemma to branch out, "In either case, what the painter knew--that his saint / and tiny crucifix, would not adorn an altar piece -- / comes to us more slowly." Here is the separation between the creator and the viewer comes to view rather than implied. It's the ability to comprehend for those who can see versus the ability to create for those whose vision are tampered with.
Vacancy and memory. Ecstasy and penitence.
And then, His partial vision of the whole
produced a partial masterpiece:
a saint--Jerome--and grizzled robe, flawless
in its dust. The rest is incomplete, but zero-mass
Does absence mean partial? And what are the repercussions. Now, what's more focused on what's here or what isn't? Is something not there "zero-mass"? These are the questions brought up near the end. The approach of this poem is context, and then questions that aren't questions -- rather interpretations taking the forefront.
"Jerome as just two simple lines, what are / across white axis--before they both were white-" Note the lack of color becoming apparent.
"washed over, and the saint began, / and umber brought the lion to him." Note that the word "umber" is the partial; however, the absence bring absence.