The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am a retired art historian, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it attempted 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.
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.
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- John Walford
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- I am a British-born, retired art historian, who taught 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. 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 twelve 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.