Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Building the Boat, Trèboul (1930)
August 25, 2017 Pau-Llosa Ricardo

Building the Boat, Trèboul (1930)

after the painting by Christopher Wood


Half-way, the basket nature of the ship

reveals itself, to us though not perhaps

to the two men or the women bringing material

or sitting in gossip on the quay, for, though real

enough to place the setting—Normandy,

let’s say—the quotidian, like drama, demands

the craned neck of symbolism and not just

the calm chew of experience.  Meaning trusts

variables, as if any sequel of actions

and jot of causes, accidents, and apprehensions

which converge into an event—a temporal

thing free from the things in it, the moral

and aesthetic, even the tangled beings involved—

yearned for the fill of horizons.  A puzzle is solved

when it can sustain, like a bulging sail, multiple

endings, all equally true and loyal

to the root of mystery.  The ship, then, is a basket

on the still-life of the dock, a cradle, though not a casket,

for who builds his own rocking end joyous

with the sweat of labor?  The ribbed beams, yes,

are skeletal, and the side planks presage the shells

we hide in to face the world.  But the swells

this vessel will ride, and the bolt and shadow

that frees the molten sea from the syllogism of meadow

and valley, tell us there is no thing or process

that doesn’t envy art’s prism of choices.


Ricardo Pau-Llosa‘s 8th book of poems, The Turning (2018) is from his longtime publisher, Carnegie Mellon U Press. He is also an art critic and curator.  Birmingham Poetry Review will be publishing an interview with him soon.