The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am an art historian, currently studying satire in Netherlandish art, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it ekphratic poetry, responding to works of art. This is to be a site for words and images, interacting on one another, as vehicles of human expression.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Flickr's sovcsil / Csilla Sövenyhazy's Red Vine (10mpSövényházyCsillaIMG_9768.0.10.10.23Őszi levelek Budapesten) 2011

"The Red Vine"

Red against gray,
Drives me to say,
Gives joy to my day,
Makes me want to pray,
Thank God for vines,
Especially The Vine.

--JW, Dec 30, 2011, for sovcsil/Csilla Sövenyhazy, wishing you a peaceful and purposeful New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent - A Christmas Meditation



Advent

Advent comes around, predictably, each year,
Like sunrise, its certitude never, never fear!
In heralding Christmas, it brings children cheer,
For their parents, the elderly, memories dear.

But what is remembered, and why this year
As last year, year following year, why care?
For as long as remembered, will always be,
Advent, leading up to a Christmas tree.

For little ones, that tree, ‘tis all they see,
Twinkling lights, fond baubles, most of all,
Colored packages, all sizes and shapes,
Gathered around the Christmas tree drapes.

The sparkling spectacle, for parents a chore,
Made mostly for their little ones to adore.
Forget we one, unique, who came into the world,
Whose story, at Christmas does start to unfold?

Christmas, unchanging, will always return,
As long as human hearts for God do yearn.
Yet if we forget, the Great Adventure remains,
For God has his steady hands holding the reins.

As we prepare this Advent, ponder anew,
Who was this child, born to me, and to you?
Advent, its coming should give us all pause:
Where there’s an effect, there is always a cause.

--JW, a Christmas meditation, Dec. 23, 2011.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flickr's Ingrid Hedbavny's Advent calendar 11. 12. 2011 - 5 Apples ofParadise

"Adventkalender, Abfall und Apfel"

I was first made to anticipate a day,
A day that comes round once a year,
A day that reminds us, not to fear,
For there are glad tidings that await.

But some do not care, cannot bear
The message, the medium, I fear,
And tossed me aside, as 'abfall.'
Found, wed with 'paradiesapfel.'

How belong we together? What
Trick of mind and eye, to bind
'Apfall' and 'apfel,' just where
An angel announces Advent.

--JW, for Ingrid Hedbavny, with appreciation
for your attentive viewing of my Flickr stream,
21st December, 2011.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Flickr's I'm Jac あき 's "Girl in Café"


Untitled, originally uploaded by i'm Jac.

Alone in the Café

I sit here alone, with my coffee in hand,
There’s an empty seat – waiting for you.
I could tell you my thoughts, glancing demur.
You gaze in my face, what do you see?
I am young, I reflect, I am glad I am free.
Yet I sit here alone, my coffee in hand.

I sit by the window, as others before,
Blinds shading the light, chair holding
My coat and my bag – gladly removed.
Others share together, while I am alone,
Rather be here, than sitting at home.
A painter in Delft, he saw this before.
- John Walford, Dec. 14, 2011.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Flickr's Bart van Damme's "I Forget," 2011 - disintegrating Hostas


I Forget, originally uploaded by Bart van Damme.

"We Once Were Hostas"

Once we did so healthy flourish,
Sap surging up our stems,
Leaves spread generously
Towards the light, the sky.
Yet taller stems boasting
Blooms, now long gone.
Autumn chills did soon
Make quick sport of us -
Robbing us of verdant life,
Of cover, strength, and joy!
Yet now we limply linger,
Our fiber crumpled, spotted;
Our once active veins,
Now stiff and sclerotic.
First frost finally, we fear,
Will quickly finish us off.
But - We surely will be
Back next year! - Stronger!
--JW, for Bart, 12/04/11.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flickr's egold/ Eugene Goldin's "Antwerpen... Listening the organ" 2010


Antwerpen... Listening the organ., originally uploaded by egold..

A Word of Thanks

This work touches my heart deeply, speaking as it does of so much that I think, believe, and welcome to see made visible, as you have done here. A really moving piece, that leaves me with much to think about. Thank you - yes, a simple phrase, but loaded with meaning , like your work, here seen.

-John Walford, 11/11/11

The Costs of Lust and Silence: A Grievous Lament



See a child sodomized in the locker room.
What then to do? Quick, leave the room,
Tell your boss, and it’s no more yours to act.
Boss tells his boss, for he must, it’s no big deal,
Who tells his boss, who tells his boss the same.
Water down the tale, and quietly move on.

Eight years and eight boys later, maybe nine,
Or maybe more, first child becomes adult,
Now brave enough to speak up for himself.
The pattern and evidence speaks louder yet.
Four sets of silent lips, tumble one by one,
Eight scarred children stumble on in silence.

The alleged predator says he’s devastated,
Who would not be? – place on suicide watch.
For us all, weigh the worth of each human life.

John Walford, 11/11/11, Penn State Day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Flickr's dou_ble_you's "Mind Interrupted," 2011


Mind Interrupted, originally uploaded by dou_ble_you.

"On seeing and thinking"

I gaze, absorb, and think I see.
But is it what is there to see?
Can I trust my eyes? My mind?
May I write what I think I see?
Or will words falsely frame
What image cries not out?

-- JW, for UU, Oct 28, 2011.

"Splintered Thoughts That Hover in The Shadow-lands"

A disconcerting title to a truly compelling work - the lateral shadows, one with (self-)portrait, the spare, gloomy glimpses of light complementing it on the other side, and all the scattered colored facets in the center, like diamonds discarded with abandon. These elements all make for a memorable, and moving work. And yet, for all the closing out of light, there remains yet a glimpse of hope, that bleeds round the darkness of the shuttered sides. Terribly moving.

Flickr's 'unbearable lightness's "Colorful Clutter," Oct. 2011


Colorful Clutter, originally uploaded by unbearable lightness.

"Sublime in Decline"

Tread carefully across the forest floor,
Eyes ever attendant to the carpet of fall.
Each tree sends its once-green canopy,
Tumbling to the waiting ground,
In a trumpet finale of red and gold.
Cling to the memory, until next Spring!

--JW, for 'unbearable lightness'/Kent Baldner, Oct 28, 2011.

Flickr's unbearable lightness's photo of Rembrandt van Rijn: Aristotle with a Bust of Homer

This painting moves me profoundly, every time I see it. It conveys this sense of human beings finding their inspiration and "soul mates" across time and cultures - and perhaps even into eternity - as indeed I feel towards how I imagine Rembrandt, through his art, and thus much as he expresses Aristotle's sense of the profundity of Homer. "Soul mates" - the meeting of hearts and minds - the beauty of existence - the sense of continuity - all this, despite vast changes of cultural and temporal context.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Flickr's Olli Kekäläinen's "A Piece," 2011


A Piece, originally uploaded by Olli Kekäläinen.

"Softly, Softly"

So soft and gentle, caressing the eyes,
To the touch of the finger, it invites
Stretch forth the hand and find
It is but colored pixels on a screen.

--JW, for Olli Kekäläinen, Oct 23, 2011.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fickr's Jacob Schere's "18-5 Wallflower"

"The Dance of the Wall Plants"

Like in a children's puppet show,
They pop their heads up from behind,
And in their mirthful glee,
Bounce and dance above the screen.
This leaves us wondering,
If we stick our hands through
The long, narrow opening,
Can we touch them
On the other side?
--JW, for Jacob Schere, in continuing respect for your acute sense for seeing and framing a captivating image from our otherwise mundane world, Oct 21, 2011.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Flickr's Ingrid Hedbavny's "Evidence of Life in the Forlorn Book 4"

"Paper Memorials"

With words we write
What we will preserve.
Why choose we paper,
Or think it will serve?

Trust to another,
What we did say,
Alas, forgotten,
Another day.

--JW, for Ingrid Hedbavny, October 18, 2011, in recognition of this stunning mediation on an unusual memorial.

Please note: This photograph is part of a sustained photographic study of an unusual memorial tombstone, in which lies a book, see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hedbavny/sets/72157626546063366/

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HOMAGE TO STEVE JOBS, Oct 5, 2011

Homage to Steve Jobs, Oct 5, 2011

STEVE JOBS: Surely the most innovative, inspiring, and creative entrepreneur of his generation. His quest for perfection resulted in Apple Macintosh and other products that were and are a joy to handle, to use, and simply enjoy for their sheer aesthetic and functional excellence. With this simple image I both salute the passing of an inspiring individual, whose vision has enriched the lives of millions, and at the same time acknowledge the sad frailty of all of us mortals.
STEVE JOBS - WITH MILLIONS OF OTHERS - I SALUTE YOU, AND HONOR YOU IN YOUR PASSING, AFTER A LONG, COURAGEOUS BATTLE WITH CANCER, Oct 5th, 2011.

Respectfully, John Walford

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flickr's namerif13's "Prayerful Contemplation: Jerusalem," 1980, uploaded to Flickr, Sept 2011.

"Tomorrow, in Jerusalem"

The journey has been long.
The road has been hard.
So much been left behind,
And yet, finally, he savors
One day, in Jerusalem,
With the sun on his back,
And The Western Wall,
Steadfast, before him.

--JW, for doug fireman/namerif13, Sept 29, 2011.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flickr's Bart van Damme's "Rijnhaven Sunset," 2011


Rijnhaven Sunset, originally uploaded by Bart van Damme.

"Think Rotterdam in pictures - Think Bart van Damme"

For Rotterdam, in different lights,
For Rotterdam's various sights,
For Rotterdam, from various heights,
No better man, than Bart van Damme.

--JW, in appreciation for Bart's consistently beautiful architectural and other photographs, Sept 26, 2011.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Flickr's i_still_believe_in_u's "unpretty," of 2010


unpretty, originally uploaded by i_still_believe_in_u.

" The artful Dodger"

I look, I see, I look again;
I try to see what I am seeing.
Of seeing there is no end.
In short, I am engaged!
And that is enough! Enough?
Enough to say "it's artful!"
-- A salute for i_still_believe_in_u, JW, Sept 20, 2011.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flickr's Arunas Sileika's "Castle Valley" (taken 2008)


Castle Valley, originally uploaded by Arunas S.

"Destiny Stands Open"

Stand in certain places,
Let the eye roam,
Carrying the mind,
To myriad destinations.
The freedom to choose
One way, over others.
The reality of our being.
--JW, for Arunas Sileika, Sept 14, 2011.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Flickr's Esthersita 1's "A Pause of Thought," 2011.


A Pause of Thought., originally uploaded by Esthersita1.

A Pause of Thought.

"I looked for that which is not, nor can be,
And hope deferred made my heart sick in truth:
But years must pass before a hope of youth
Is resigned utterly.

I watched and waited with a steadfast will:
And though the object seemed to flee away
That I so longed for, ever day by day
I watched and waited still..."

"A Pause Of Thought " by Christina
Rosetti


A Second Pause for Thought - A Response to Christina Rosetti"

Why should I look for that which cannot be?
Why hope deferred when now it strong can be?!
I glance upon lucid glass, and perfectly sculpted shells,
Star fish, bending dried grasses, translucent glass - what tells?
Shells tell tales of numbers spun on a spiraled golden mean,
Glass translucent, that through what is seen, we grasp the unseen,
Light, number, harmony of the spheres, wondrously wrought,
Through the impassable, yet passable, shines the light -
Light of the world, in darkness ne'er extinct, seen, yet unseen.

--JW, for Esthersita 1, in honor of your myriad, and exquisite still lives,
August 8, 2011.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Flickr's Algo's "100 year hand," of 2005


100 year hand, originally uploaded by algo.

I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose this photograph, by Flickr's Algo, and my reflection thereon, written in 2009, with what I wrote today, on seeing a reworking, in B&W, of one of his other "Hand" series:

"A Hand - A History"

It was so long ago, I do not recall,
And nor does she, long gone.
But this hand of mine once did grip
Its pink and pudgy flesh around
My Mamma's finger; and I looked
Up into her eyes, and wondered,
What will my Mamma feed me,
When bath me, when lay me
Down to rest, shake my rattle, sleep.

Mamma, now long gone, her eyes
But a feint memory, lined by age,
Her fingers, that touched so tenderly,
They let me go, and so did I grow.
Over so many years, so much I saw,
Before my hands lost their pulp.
Taught skin, gradually did sag,
Showing my bones more than I care,
Needs rest them now upon my purse.

Like the rings in the trunk of a tree,
These wrinkles of mine, they tell
A story, of fat years, and lean,
Laughter, joy, pain, and sorrow,
The motor car, a swirling satellite.
In war, famine, again war, and peace,
These hands have cut onions, sewed
Well-worn socks, turned the newspaper,
And opened my birthday cards,

One hundred times.
These hands of mine, that speak,
Algo saw, glowing in light,
And shared what few might see,
Hands, ripened by history.

--JW, for esteemed Algo, Nov 9, 2009.

Flickr's Algo's "hands," (B&W version), 2005/2011


hands B&W, originally uploaded by algo.

"Hands"

In well-nigh one hundred, well-lived years,
I've touched so many, varied, other things;
And as many others have touched me.
Gently, softly, fiercely, harshly, tugging,
Pushing, bending, reaching, scratching,
I have laid my fingers out for others, --
As well as for my own will and grasp.
And I keep on scratching, reaching, still.

These fingers of mine, once the marvel
Of my mom and dad. They counted them,
And touched them, one-by-one, softly
Separating each from its neighbor,
Each a wonder, formed in the womb,
By manufacture, which no man touched.
The wonder of ten little fingers, poked
Into every crevice, holding a 'sippy cup'.

They have held my bottle, put ten thousand
Treats into my mouth, held pencils, pens,
Pots and pans, and, yes, knitting needles.
They have reached out, caressed the boy
I first did love, reached out again, yet again.
They fended off unwanted advances,
Straightened the creases of a party dress,
And now they are entwined around each other.

What yet will they touch, what germ, unwittingly
Bring from another to the nose? - And so to the lungs.
And what then? Gradually, they may lose their grip
On this transient world, and grasp at eternity. There
They will find a pair of hands, unlike all others,
Reaching out, ready to receive, merciful, warm,
Full of charity, ready to raise up, warm, and comfort -
An eternal balm, for all the aches that withered them.

-- JW, July 17, 2011, in honor of the this extraordinary lady, well nigh 100 years old, and still carefully trimming her nails, and to Algo, whose B&W version pleases my eye for its rich shadows.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Flickr's Ned Lyttelton's "birdshit," 2011


birdshit, originally uploaded by Ned Lyttelton.

"Bird Stained Glass"

Some little bits
Undigested,
Caught in the
Oriental's brush.

--JW, July 16, 2011, for Ned Lyttelton,
master of the mundane, yet extra-ordinary.

Flickr's Ned Lyttelton's "nature imitating nature," 2011


nature imitating nature, originally uploaded by Ned Lyttelton.

"What thrives, flies"

Plants branch, and spread their wings,
Reaching for bright light and warm air,
Which in turn lures the chrysalis to fly,
And flutter bye cast shadows on a bench.

--JW, July 16, 2011, in honor of the poetic sense of Ned Lyttelton, as seen here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Andrew Herther (Picasia), Jedburgh Abbey, 2004



"Long After the Monks Departed"

Sorry sight, the monks long gone -
Driven out by lofty reformers,
Timbers perished, vaults collapsed,
Stained glass ground back to sand.

No more the sound of the pig's squeal,
Slaughtered to fatten greedy monks.
No more the sound of the bell tolling,
Its mournful peal heard for miles around.

The bell called their sated bodies to prostrate
Themselves, thanking God for plentiful pork.
Fattened against the winter chill, warmed by
Deep red, raw and lusty drafts of wine.

Grass now grows where the canteen once was,
Fertile from many a spilled pot of goodness,
Idle hands fumbled from out their coarse robes,
Dropping goodness on the ground, in disregard.

And so it came to this. Proud abbey, so finely crafted,
In the best of local stone, glowing reddish-brown
In the soft evening light, grey in cold winter storms,
With little to block the cold, but ale and the fat of pork.

Here once chanted monks in deft unison, or sang
Their beloved Gregorian chants, echoed off the stone,
Vaults that sent plaintiff sound, destined for heaven,
Bouncing bank on the ears of those who chanted it.

Now but a lofty perch for occasional passing crows,
And, in winter, some resistance for the howling wind.
Its graveyards holding the secrets of bygone days,
Cottagers, before their eyes, sad memento mori.

-John Walford, for Andrew Herther, in thanks for stirring my heart, through his photography, with fond memories of Scotland and the Border Country,
July 13, 2011.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Flickr's Rita Crane's "Garden Glimpse, Mendocino Cafe," 2011

"Footsteps at the Gate"

Should I awake, this path to see,
Would think 'twas in a dream,
That still I slept, and dreamt,
Of a quiet retreat, atop a hill,
Where no car, nor phone was
Ever heard, but the sound
Of gulls, swooping in the bay.
And a rustic postman, unlatching
The gate: all's well with the world.
--JW, for Rita Crane, in boundless admiration for your art, July 12. 2011.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Flickr's Esthersita1's "Dream Variation, 2011.


Dream Variation., originally uploaded by Esthersita1.

Sharp angles, crisp edges,
Translucent glass, so pure,
Passionate colors, forms,
Suspended for eternity
In frozen order, mesmerizes.
--JW, for Esthersita1, a little tribute, July 10, 2011.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Alchemist's Workshop, VII, (or "The Pursuit of Knowledge"), 2008

Prudence and the Internet: An Exchange of Ideas

I have been discussing with a bright, but younger friend, who studies Communications, the tricky issue of how to confront the pervasive, negative aspects of contemporary media, such as the easy and pervasive access to pornography, exposure of our fertile, but corruptible imaginations to every imaginable form of violence, and/or the temptation to spend hours alone at home, on social networking sites, as opposed actually being sociable. Thus, for example, we risk ending up to having a legion on-line virtual “friends,” but actually experiencing the social isolation of having live access to few, real, practical, helpful friends. To these examples we can all add other, analogous ills, that every parent of teenagers – even of yet younger children -- know all too well, to say nothing of what can equally come between a husband and wife.

In exchanges with my young friend, I had referred to the wise counsel of Martin Luther in face of analogous social ills of his time – such as the idolatrous and misleading power of art as used in the church of his day – who sagely cautioned that ‘abuse of a practice is not grounds to reject the practice per se, as otherwise one must first go out and destroy one’s own body.’ I have pondered the wisdom of Martin Luther’s counsel for years and years, and perceive it’s perennial wisdom, in face of whatever are the social ills that confront any of us, in our own time and place. His point is that all human culture – wherever found, whenever made, is shot through with intertwined, and virtually inseparable elements of good and evil. This is because all human culture proceeds from the human heart, which itself, as the generative force working on the potential of the created order, leaves its mark of intertwined good and evil in whatever it touches. The child carries the genes of the parents, the created order carries the marks of its Maker, and all the techne that humans devise is shot through with our own DNA, itself a mix of brilliant, good, not-so-good, and evil energies, powers, and devising.

I have therefore concluded, from Luther’s insight, that the challenge for those of us who seek to nurture what is good and curtail was is bad - to state it without nuance - is not to seek to eliminate the bad, and flee from it, because, firstly, where is there to go, where the corruption of the human mind, as well as its brilliant ingenium, has not gone before us, or, at very least, goes with us. Secondly, what then is left to us to embrace and enjoy, since all good is nevertheless shot through with traces of a downside, that is less desirable, to state it softly? Will we cut ourselves, and our children, off from the very technology and media that our own minds have devised, and which shimmer with potential – albeit, and as always, for good and evil alike? My conclusion is than we not isolate our children, or ourselves, from the technology and media of our day, but rather teach prudence in their use, and learn to manage ourselves, as users, rather than censor the technology, as vehicles and providers.

My thoughtful friend, in reaction to some of the above, responds, and I quote, “I am dissatisfied with responding to a wide-spread social problem (such as the effects of television and the Internet on literacy) with merely saying "use prudence! Become a master of the tool, do not be mastered by it yourself," when the reality of the situation is dire indeed. I feel like it's akin to moving to the suburbs as a method for dealing with inner-city crime. Sure it fixes YOUR problem, but what about the rest of the people who aren’t blessed with the resources (intellectual, social, monetary or otherwise).”

In turn, I respond as follows: “Yes, that is a fair critique, yet the response of "use prudence" should be taken also in a wider sense, "TEACH PRUDENCE."

Expanding on this idea, I seek to support my point-of view, and suggested strategy, with another theological perspective: The bible teaches that it is not what enters a person that corrupts them, but rather that "out of the heart of mankind proceeds all the issues of life." Now, think about it. If we were to face all the evils of society with a big stick, beating down every one until none was left standing, we would discover that we were striking Medusa, since for every head we cut off, six more would appear. Why? Because there is no end to what proceeds from the heart of humanity, and humans will always devise yet further perversity - until redeemed.

Thus, to raise children in the wisdom of the Lord, to teach discernment, to teach prudence, is to influence people’s attitudes and behaviors for good, which – to a degree- is an attainable goal, whereas overcoming the evils of society is beyond human reach. But as more people choose the good and refuse the evil, less people will devise evil, and more people will learn to live as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves, exercising discernment, and prudence, in their cultural dealings.

I acknowledge that there is certainly a place for lobbying for political action to abolish slavery, indeed injustices of all and any kind. That, equally, there is a place for the occasional Jeremiad about the evils of the Internet, there is for each Jeremiad the need for ten thousand voices, in ten thousand different places, teaching by example and instruction, however issued, on how best to handle the available resources with prudence and wisdom - whether the resource in question is oil, air, water, and/or any natural resources imaginable, be they brain cells, adept fingers, sperm, eyes, and those extensions of ourselves, that include email, texting, twitter, fritter, flickr, YouTube, blogging, Google +, Facebook, TV, movies, CDs, DVDs, mp3s, digital image manipulation, animation, Skype, etc. etc.

It always, and has always, come down to the heart, the spirit, the mind and the will of those who devise, and those who use, techne - ingenium - the devising of humankind - and always has been, ever since Cain used a club to kill his brother, when he could have used that same club to fend of a ravenous bear. Are you going to blame the club - or the one who wields it? I never heard a prophet or Christ, or an apostle preach against anything that humanity devised - but rather they preached against the usage to which humanity put such tools. Remember, we are created in the image of God, the prime deviser, and hence our capacity to devise. But the wrong is in our hearts, out of which proceeds all the issues of life. Scripture makes that very clear. Hence the prime target is not the devise, but the operations of the human heart. Hence the need, above all, to teach wisdom and prudence, as I indeed here strive to do. As a footnote - short of the Internet, I would not have been continuing this exchange of ideas, with my young friend, or at least it would have had to be deferred until we next saw one another. Whereas now, I have heard his critique of what he perceives as the apparent cop out of teaching prudence, and he can be thinking about his response, so that when we next see each other, we can proceed yet further. Besides, by writing my response to him, via Facebook, this text could be copied and pasted, as now it has been, and published for all who are curious to consider. Thereby a discussion between the two of us, can even reach a wider group, and in turn receive their consideration and subsequent input. Thus, I believe the Internet is an ideal forum for such exchanges of thought - and it costs far less, in time, effort, and money, that for all interested parties to fly or drive to a conference center, to thrash it out in a rented hall!

John Walford, Professor Emeritus of Art History, Wheaton College, Illinois, July 1, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Flickr's Jacob Schere's "Six Points in the School Yard," 2011

"No Fresher Possible"

So lusiously, luminously fresh,
So well placed within the frame,
Such sensitive seeing - no less -
Ensures Jacob Schere his fame!

-- JW, June 26, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

John Walford, "One Bare Bulb in the Darkness," 2011



Down, down, yet further down, alone I trod,
Deep down through the layers of history -
For this slippery path descended into the deep,
Illumined by two, twisting, threadbare wires,
Separated from each other by mouse-mauled,
Ancient casing, with every thirty feet or so,
An old, bare bulb, blinking in the crepuscule,
There - precariously - to light one's way.
Way to where? - A pre-Christian Mithraeum,
Layers below an Early Christian, Roman church.

The further down, the more dank, and damp,
Slithery, slimy walls to steady oneself, twisting,
Turning, this way and that, always deeper, darker.
Now, far down in this desolate pit of darkness,
The nearest light bulb failed, and there I was.
How far had I descended, how many times turned,
And how possibly to reconstruct my path of descent,
With nothing to guide my path but all-pervasive slime,
And the Devil's cunning laughter, echoing off the grime.
Just damp and darkness for cruel, mocking companions.

Had there been someone to shine a light in my face
What would they have seen in my eyes but terror!
Did my hair stand on end, and never descend?
Did my taste for adventure melt like butter in sun?
Did I yearn for the surface, for the busy Roman street?
Did I yearn for human warmth to touch my hand?
But there was no one there to witness my terror -
A terror untold 'till this day, quite another day,
Secure, or seemingly secure in my study, writing
My friend Bruce Herman. But could I so hope then?

The chilly darkness wrapped round me like a shroud,
Buried alive, while tottering on my feet, aimless -
For who can aim anywhere, when utter darkness clings
And we enveloped from every side, with no respite?
Feel, fumble, tumble, totter in the damp darkness,
Totter, tumble, fumble, find once more my feet.
But where to direct them, on what stone to step?
Darkness, I found, laughs coldly at those it entraps,
While panic's chill penetrates to the shaking spine.
Until one fresh spark, in one old bulb, offers release.

-- JW, for Bruce Herman, in friendship, June 23, 2011.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Flickr's evamaria2010"s "The house of a storyteller," 2011


The house of a storyteller, originally uploaded by evamaria2010.

"Our House of Dreams"

Everybody needs a house, a house built of dreams
Reality, the mundane, it just is not all that it seems.
Behind the desk, behind the face, behind the smile,
However all-together it may seem, way deep inside,
A person is more than their exterior, but dreams...
Everybody, everybody, needs a house of dreams.

Without such dreams, our house of dreams,
We shrivel up, we die inside. We die inside.
Waking in the morning, walking down the street,
What fills our searching minds, what drives our feet?
To work to eat and sleep, to sleep to work, to eat
Is not enough - we need our house of dreams.
--JW , for Eva, June 10, 2011.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

John Walford's Springtime Promise, 2011


Springtime Promise, 2011, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

“Under Our Noses: Things Happened Upon”

When British boys, of my breed, post-war generation,
Sought consolation from city life and social turmoil,
We had the memory of British poets, like Wordsworth,
And British painters, like Gainsborough and Constable,
Teaching us from schooldays to seek the picturesque.

Behind them all was Claude, with a dash of Ruisdael,
Who provided a frame, and a ready-made template,
Through which to look out on the world. England’s
Landscape, indeed, had been bent into same shape
By its rich Earls, as laid down by Mr. Capability Brown.

Thus reshaped into views, over grass, lakes and trees,
Soon tour guides would lead to the most ‘picturesque.’
Thus from canvas to terrain, it soon looked the same,
And young bloods were schooled to set out on a quest,
To find the best of the best, the pure ‘picturesque.’

Now, when tourism followed, with train and motorcar,
Folks came form afar, to catch a glimpse with the rest.
Yet better, with film camera, then digital too, each one
Could take home their own landscape simulacrum,
A framed view on the wall, to wander through, ad infinitum.

Old habits die hard, ‘til age bruises the heart, bends the neck,
And lowered, aged eyes discover a wondrous world underfoot.
When young and fleet, we trampled over it, heedless and blind.
When slow, bent, and ripe, it now yields to us its own lyric rhyme,
And at last we learn, that there, under foot, is found the sublime!
-- JW, on unlearning the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque,
May 26th, 2011, for my brother-in-law, Colin McC, on his 73rd birthday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Traces of Time IV, 2011


Traces of Time IV, 2011, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

"Remember, Remember, Remember the Day!"

Remember, remember, remember the day!
I well remember the way you looked at me.
A walk in the park, when you looked at me.
Such light in your eyes, it gave me such glee,
That your sweet heart looked at me that way.

My heart it did sing, I dreamed soon of a ring,
Your shining young eyes gave me hope that day.
One sideways glance, how much it can say,
Can I ever forget, what in my heart deep lay?
Your tender glance did make my heart sing.

Your tender glance did all your love betray.
Yet did you know, what your eyes said to me?
Were you then ready to give your self to me?
You leaned on my arm, given gladly to you,
We swayed together, we swore to be true.

We leaned on the bridge, gazed into the lake,
Watch ducks chasing ducks, hoping to mate.
You lit my ciggy, then threw lighter away.
I gave you Kit-Kat, then threw paper away.
Remember, remember, remember the day.

--JW, dedicated to a young, Hispanic couple,
I passed in the park one day, May 25th, 2011.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Flickr's Esthersita1's "Practical Magic," 2011.


Practical Magic., originally uploaded by Esthersita1.

"Light, glass, and lemons"

As clean, as pure,
As lovely as can be!
Speaks to me of calm,
Freshness, and serenity!
I will be still, I will await,
Cast eyes from vase to glass,
Absorb leaves and lemons
- both yellow and green -
And tranquility comes to pass,
From the beauty of things seen.
--JW, for Esthersita1, May 17, 2011.--JW, for Esthersita1, May 17, 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Flickr's Mafleen's "7 pots," 2011


7 pots, originally uploaded by mafleen.

"A Family of Seven Pots"

There was a grandpa pot, and a grandma pot, a daddy pot, and a mummy pot,
Three little children pots, lots of good soil, nutrients, some small plants, and water!
There was light and there was water, water and light, day and night, night and day,
Then came the life-force, growth, vibrancy, texture, shape, smell, pattern, and color!
Seven little seed pods, some soil, and some tender-loving care, exercised in trust.
But is all began, with a wet, shapeless pile of worked, wet clay, on a potter's wheel.
--JW, for Mafleen, May 16, 2011.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

John Walford, Easter Sunday Meditation, 2011




This is the third visual, and written meditation that I have attempted for Good Friday, Easter Saturday, and now, Easter Sunday. You need to click on the image itself to see it and be able to read it. Thank you, if you give it your time and attention.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

For Artist Bruce Herman - Amidst Easter Week Travails and Hope, 2011



For Bruce Herman - Amidst Easter Week Travails and Hope, 2011

Beloved, bubbling Bruce
Walking with a wobbly cane
- for now.
Such a state, see I
Only through a glass
Dimly. For I know not
This cane-carrying Bruce,
But one with a mahlstick,
The better to lay with precision
That last fleck of light in an eye.

Yet I also know that our Master
Talks to Bruce in the shadows,
The better to see in the light.
That he, in turn, will show us
In those heavy shadows
The trace of a divine finger
Pressing through our flesh,
Like grapes in a wine-press,
That the elixir of life burst
Forth, for all who have thirst.

Be well, brother Bruce,
For you are well-loved,
By all of us,
As well as uniquely loved,
By Him who sustains.
--JW, April 20, 2011.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Flickr's Bart van Damme's "Neeltje Jans Delta Works"


Neeltje Jans Delta Works, originally uploaded by Bart van Damme.

Wind, Water, and Some Sand"

Zee-land, land-sea, push-pull, ebb-flow,
Under an ever-changing, restless sky,
Sand buffeted by wind and water,
Blowing, washing, sweeping all away.
Two people pass, and soon are gone.
Air, land and water, continue their dance,
Unheeding of this transient human presence,
Each force redrawing its boundary anew,
As for many long, millennia past,
And for whatever yet to come.
--JW, for Bart, April 5, 2011.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flickr's Jacob Schere's "Standing Solo" - in Japan


Standing Solo, originally uploaded by jacob schere [ in prayer ].

"Fallen Leaves and a Solo Broom"

How time can change the way we see,
Familiar things from another year.
This lone broom, waiting to sweep
Some scattered leaves from yesteryear.

Ivy drooping over a green-stained wall,
The sloping road, and red-paved path,
Waiting in innocence for a passer-by,
To take the broom, and sweep the leaves.

Who could have known, July last year,
It might not be a gentle hand that seized
The broom - nor that the earth would shake,
The sea would roar, sweep all away - but fear.

-- A lament for all lost and suffering in Japan,
and a prayer that time would witness the country
return to the graceful beauty of the single broom.
--JW, March 26, 2011, and in admiration of
Jacob Schere's poetic vision of Japan.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flickr's Martin Beek's "St Mary's Lane, Oxford"


St Mary's Lane, Oxford, originally uploaded by Martin Beek.

"Lewis's Lamppost"

What lends a street such allure?
A window here, there a door.
This recedes, and that projects,
An overhang in wood or stone.
The trace of time, stone reflects,
The stomp of boots, cobbles own
Resilient, softer now about the edge,
One lamp post, graceful, all demure.
Each day anew, the light a game
It plays, chasing shadow round again,
Tempting us out to broad street,
While lighting the path for our feet.

--JW, for Martin, on a Friday evening,
March 25, 2011.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Flickr's Ackteon's "Parisian Beaux-Arts copy of a Roman Youth"


IMG_8376, originally uploaded by Ackteon.

"Vandalus vandalorum"

Way back in time, those Vandals
Did their worst to wanton Rome.
Beaux-Arts Parisians, undeterred,
Saw fit to nurture their students
On the same, ancient fodder -
For what better to be found?
Vandals unleashed wanton censure
On the beauty of the human figure.
New barbarians, untamed by time,
Unfeeling, just could not give a dime.

--JW, a lament on the instinct to vandalism,
March 9th, 2011.

Flickr's Algo's "the Wizards convene" 2006/2011


the Wizards convene, originally uploaded by algo.

The Alchemists of Delphi"

Six fishermen in yellow "sou'westers"
Encrusted by time with golden algae,
Transforming them into alchemists,
Minute phalluses, loaded for Spring,
Gathered at Delphi's sacred stool
To entice Apollo out of his hiding,
And burnish the sky anew.

--JW, in praise of Nature's witticisms,
as captured by its watchman, Algo,
March 9, 2011.

Flickr's vision revision's "Wow an S," 2011


Wow an S, originally uploaded by vision revision.

"Detente"

Dog thinks: Wish I were out there.
Squirrel thinks: Hold your distance.
Dog thinks: I'd be after you.
Squirrel thinks: I have the upper hand.
I think: this detente entertains.

- With thanks to "vision revision",
March 9, 2011.

Flickr's Renown Algo's "Cold enough for Frost," 2011


Cold enough for Frost, originally uploaded by algo.

"Waiting for the Frost"

Limp leaves, long left by Autumn chill
Knowing frost provides a further thrill.

-- JW, for Algo, Nature's best watchman,
March 9th 2011.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chantez Matines, Le Jour Reneit (Sing Mornings, Day is Reborn), executed 1922, published 1948, Plate # 29, The Miserere Series, By Georges Rouault


Chantez Matines, Le Jour Reneit (Sing Mornings, Day is Reborn), executed 1922, published 1948
Plate # 29, The Miserere Series, By Georges Rouault,
(Aquatint, drypoint, and etching).

"Our Days Reborn"

Folds of terrain, turned back in on one another -
Desolate, barren, life and vegetation swept away;
Purged of human predation, people-less, pained
By the heavy groaning of wayward beings, those
Who struggled against their maker, loveless, lone.
Was it inner strife, recent war, or time most remote?

Sky too, wild and thunderous, savagely threatening
In its heavy, dark tones. What foreboding hovers there,
Ready to drench the earth with relentless downpour.
And yet, without rainbow, light and life is not erased.
The sun, months hidden, relenting, shows itself again,
And a dove, released from the ark, heads for land.

--EJW, for Roger and Sue Lundin, as we share such
light as we have been given, on the occasion of your
Rouault acquisition, March 5th, 2011.

Flickr's DrAMJ's "Neath Abbey," 2011


Neath Abbey, originally uploaded by DrAMJ.

"The Abbot's Lodge"

Where once the fat abbot his stomach did fill,
Wind blows, birds nest, and rain enters at will.

-JW, homage to the fine eye of DrAMJ, March 7, 2011.

Flickr's DrAMJ's "Corfe Castle, Dorset," England, 2011


Corfe Castle, Dorset, originally uploaded by DrAMJ.

"Never Fully Forgotten"

Corfe Castle, long ago
By its owners abandoned.
But by land still nobly framed,
And sunset forgets you not.

- Nor the eye of a keen photographer!
JW, with thanks to DrAMJ for stirring in me
long-dormant memories of Corfe Castle.

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I am a British-born, art historian, teaching in the USA; I studied law, in England,1964-68; worked part-time in the art world, 1968-69; then studied art history at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1969-76; completed my Ph.D. diss. at the University of Cambridge, 1981; moved to the States in 1981, and have since written, or co-authored, other books. I am currently studying satire in Netherlandish art. My wife, Maria, was born in Milan, Italy, where she worked as an interpreter, in business; she spent seven years in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne, 1963-70. She came to Amsterdam in 1971, and we soon married. She is a wife, mother, literary critic, of Italian (and French) literature, and completed her Ph. D. diss. in 2002, at the University of Chicago, on Cesare Pavese and His Critics. We have three married children, and eight grandchildren, all of whom we excessively adore! I welcome dialog about art, photography, human behavior, beliefs, and motivation from all comers, regardless of race, color, gender, orientation, values, or beliefs. This is to be a site for words and images, as vehicles of human expression, around topics of mutual interest.

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