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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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.


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.

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.

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John Walford

John Walford
Not All That Meets The Eye

About Me

My photo
United States
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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