Unfinished Landscapes by Gerry LaFemina

Unfinished Landscapes

My friend Peter pointed out the condensation
on his glass & declared how much love is like water:
everyone wants it, & how it comes

in a torrent or a trickle; though it can also be
a still pond with mosquitos, cirrus-like, above it
so that sometimes we might confuse

the soft insect buzz for love itself, but no.
The water metaphor was what was important
in the end—how we thirst & how

we can’t cup it in our hands for it seeps
between fingers as we bring it to our mouths
so it’s as if we kiss our own palms.

Some people, in desperation, get on their knees
bend over like a dog to lick at a puddle.
So easily we lose our dignity, & easily, too,

we fight for it or weep in its name.
That’s something never taught in science class.
Ditto how to cope with heartache or how to enjoy

the way sunlight seems to cast itself
on only select leaves of a spring catalpa
so they grow a little greener, more lush & thus

more lovely. Ask the landscape artist I see some days
in May, in Central Park, & he’ll show you how
he mixes acrylics, shade after shade of emerald

whisked in, sometimes, a bit of yellow to nix
a daub of blue, then feeling it thinned out too much
adding something darker. The brush swirling in hues

so that it resembles a smeared thumb print,
a bit of forensic evidence, the way the fine brush hairs
form thin ridges in the paint.

Then it, too, is gone. Likewise, day’s luminescence
which gives way to evening with a shuffling sound
that can only be described as wind through leaves.

The painter picks up his tubes, canvas, & easel
though he’ll stop to let you know that
this is another in a series of unfinished landscapes, &

that he used to paint boaters on the lake
from one of the stone bridges.
It made him hopeful, somewhat nostalgic—

those couples with their secret languages &
picnic baskets, their laughter
competing with busker song & the giddiness of kids

clutching balloon strings. He never says what changed
his mind, or how much sadness is like sunlight—
ubiquitous, momentary. Along the curving path

comes a woman with a poodle, whistling
Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring. There’s no call for rain,
yet an umbrella swings from her free hand.

Peter would say that proves everything.


Gerry LaFemina is the author of numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and criticism. In 2022 he’ll have two new books released: The Pursuit: A Meditation on Happiness (creative nonfiction) and The American Ruse (poems). He is a Professor of English at Frostburg State University, serves as a mentor in Carlow University’s MFA program, is a Fulbright specialist in Writing and American Culture, and fronts the punk rock band The Downstrokes.

Leave a Reply