(for Rob Shore)
In Diego Velazquez's great painting "Las Meninas,"
or "Maids of Honor," life and art fight to a draw:
Chaotic activity overwhelms the canvas,
and the purposeful artist pauses to impose order.
The little maidens are so "off message,"
as one adjusts her skirt and another approaches
the sleepy royal dog, a killer at rest.
Somewhere near the back of the room
a courtier parts a curtain and steps into the stair,
surveying the disordered scene
before departing again.
In the receding background two older women
chat about the weather or perhaps the scullery maid's
Only the tiny blonde Infanta seems prepared for portraiture:
striking a pose, aware of her looks and her pedigree,
as a kneeling attendant
prepares to adjust her charge's hair, just so.
And the royal dwarf, in a dress as pretty
as she is ugly,
keeps her attention focused on her masters,
just beyond the frame.
Meanwhile, the mirror at the back of the room
dimly reflects this royal couple
who are sitting for their picture
but are not, it seems, the real subjects.
Off-center, beyond the back of his canvas frame,
occupying the left quarter of the painting, stands the primary focus.
Diego Velazquez, painter to King Philip of Spain,
intently surveys the far distance,
relaxed fingers holding the charged brush.
Diego Velazquez prepares a brushstroke....
Or is he the subject? Perhaps not.
For the painter seems intent on something else
that we cannot see, and neglects
the jumble of figures at his feet.
He seems to look past even the royals themselves
and pays no attention to the overly busy maids,
or the preening Infanta, the drowsy cur,
or the dwarf in the purple crepe dress.
But Diego Velazquez nevertheless prepares a brushstroke...
In fact, he starts to draw Life itself,
beyond this canvas, the mirrored reflections, these flecks of paint:
beyond Time itself.
He looks out at the viewer, surprised by nothing,
only preparing his brushstroke: his triumph of art over life.
Perhaps, in this intent, he looks even into the present, into this room,
sees Luke once again coolly adjusting his hair, just so;
Jeff dreaming of distant armadas and battles at sea;
Brian thinking chess is definitely more exciting than this;
and Patrick deciding that novels are better than poems,
while Dylan wonders what Yoomie is doing tonight.
And why not? It is just as possible a subject
as all the others that have passed before this rectangular frame
in four centuries,
as Diego Velazquez prepares his brushstroke.
And imagination may stretch further than our immediate view
and also perceive Rob and his girlfriend
under the billion stars of Arhanghai,
where the immense weight of the backlit sky
crushes all human purpose to Gobi dust.
At the same time, there is this one small interesting detail
where the young colt,
in its corral on the darkening steppe,
whinnies in the receding light
cuddling next to the indulgent mare
while Diego Velazquez prepares another brushstroke.
– Mark Minton