Aileen Cassinetto 

Lily Briscoe Was Here

The Attic, 1990
So loveliness reigned
and stillness,
and in the attic,
clasped hands,
among the faded
and perishing
(window, chair, light)
Here they remain
clasping hands—
With “the lives that they lived”
The lives that stand still, here.

Bloomsbury, 1914
Blast and suffrage
and Marinetti!
See the landscape shift
its shape to show figures—
female and famously
foreshadowing an orange
armchair, ordinary and
unperturbed, inside an orange-
roofed barn. Yonder,
a swirl of silver and amber,
viridescent and vanishing
in a waterless tub.

Paris, 1919
In Montparnasse, on the left
bank of the Seine,
where the sun shone brightest,
I met Nina.
Watched her dance on tabletops.
I could see clearly,
her shape in cadmium yellow—
an honest color.
and my undoing.

Isle of Skye, 1920
The whole thing changed.
The lighthouse in eclipsed
light and the line
of the coast, dissolving
like salt
cellars on a lace tablecloth,
only the Jackmanii
remained, wedge-shaped—
purple and unresolved.
As for the kitchen table—
there it was, scoured and
upended in the fork
of a pear tree, its four legs
in the air, like a Chinese road
painting, liquescing into a blank
canvas, white and unwavering.

San Francisco, 1940
The bridges were built.
And to the City by the Bay, I came,
Chinese eyes set on
the Pacific and its World’s Fair.
Within a palace of concrete and steel,
I painted my panels next to Diego’s.
The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent
he called it.
In other words, Pan American Unity,
rooted in the soil, moving forward,
Young Emmy Lou—whom I liked despite—
and her friends, Irene and Mona,
were a sight to see before 22 feet
of fresco—women can paint!
(Emmy’s grandmother would have
been proud, she who “fought
for due process when women
were committed to mental
institutions simply on the word
of their husbands.”)
As for me, I was sixty and free
to paint my world of form and color.
I was told I was out of fashion,
but what can I say—
those fauve mauves drive me wild.

New York City, 1960
great revelation
never came. But
a little
miracle: The Purple
was shown
on Tenth Street.
there, me
on a wall.

London, 2000
Dulwich Picture Gallery opened today the first major solo exhibition of work by Lily Briscoe…

“Then beneath the colour there was the shape. She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed.”


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