Pouring Milk for the Master
With a limited palette
her master painted her into a corner.
A still life of a maid pouring milk
captured like a butterfly on show.
Pinned by the long days of balancing
obligation and duty
of seeing nothing, saying nothing,
leaving the studio untouched.
Silence rules the canvas
apart from the gurgle of poured milk
because he is the master.
Hence the missing window pane, so tiny,
the illuminated square on plaster,
the three dimensions of the nail in the wall –
detail from the master.
And what of the thought behind
the frown of concentration
the sturdy blouse unfastened
at the neck
the cache of stolen moments:
the day she strode into town
silencing the tongue
of the impudent boy in the butcher’s,
weighing up the grocer’s respect,
conducting the business of Johannes Vermeer.
The day she rolled up her sleeves,
allowed the sun to kiss her arms.
(John Irving Clarke)
She sang other lives
twisted years and springs
when companions were late to come
and loves late to ripen.
Rain washed rugged flowers
on uneven roads.
in the frame
of the sky from the window
of the drop from the door
a wish to be dried.
Other lives she sang
just beyond the veil of time
to grab with an ounce of daring
and spend with a deadline.
she didn’t tell
now landed in a time
where time didn’t matter
and rain battered
like a sign from the sky.
(Silvia Pio, English translation by John Irving Clarke and Silvia Pio)
The collaboration between John Irving Clarke from Wakefield, North of England, and Silvia Pio from Mondovì, North of Italy, started by chance some years ago and has now become a friendship at the heart of which is «a delight in poetry and its capacity to capture mood both in the particular and the universal, and its ability to establish touchstones on what is often grandly described as the human condition.»
These words are taken from the Introduction of the booklet Ondulazioni, containing John and Silvia’s poetry with the respective translation in Italian and English.
«In this volume you can read reflections on the four elements which make us what we are, as well as diverse subjects such as memories, dreams and clouds. There are even nods of acknowledgement towards T.S. Eliot and Johannes Vermeer. In short these are poems which cover the ondulazioni of life whether they be small like lapping water at the lakeside’s edge or huge and imposing like storms and sunsets which fire the sky.»
John Irving Clarke, who is a regular contributor to Margutte, has had poems, short stories and newspaper articles published variously. A former teacher he now fits in writing around visiting schools and writing groups and tutoring an adult creative writing class. A co-founder of the Red Shed Readings and organiser of the annual Red Shed poetry competition, John thoroughly enjoys giving a platform to new voices and promoting poetry to a wider audience.
Silvia Pio is a poet, translator and teacher of English. Her poetry has appeared in magazines, books and online. She co-founded the literary online magazine www.margutte.com, which she co-edits, translating mainly poetry, which is what she would like to do in life, as well as writing articles and reviews. With regard to promoting poetry, Silvia also organizes readings and events, such as the global event100Thousand Poets for Change and the poetry exchange Mondovì, Italy-Wakefield, that involved the meeting of Italian poets writing for Margutte and British poets from the Shed Readings, the translation into Italian of the latter, the publication of two anthologies and an exchange of visits.
An interview with John Irving Clarke is here.
Cover photograph John Irving Clarke.