Day 13. When the Cock Crows.

 

IMG_2387

 

“Through the Fence” oil on canvas, 12×12, $150 [button link=”http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/denise-hopkins/through-the-fence/257193″ type=”big”] Buy Now[/button]

“…glass-headed pins,

oil-golds and copper greens,

anthracite blues, alizarins,

each one an active

displacement in perspective;

each screaming, “This is where I live!” Each screaming

“Get up! Stop dreaming!”

Roosters, what are you projecting?”

 

If you were planning to send me a story, now is the time. I’m officially out, eager to continue.

Today’s painting comes from two sources, and, for the sake of the continuity of this project, let’s just call them “stories”:  A poem by Elizabeth Bishop and my son, Ezra.

Ezra first learned what sound a rooster makes from a book I’ve been reading to him since he was born. He doesn’t exactly say “cookadoodle doo,’ but the sound he does make is undeniably rooster. He’ll start making the sound at unexpected times, and always, if I look around closely enough, I’ll find some kind of image of a rooster. At the grocery store, there’s a metal rooster in the poultry department and he squeals from the buggy. I would never have noticed the small sculpture otherwise. During the world cup, my boyfriend had on a French jersey, which features a tiny rooster as a logo. Ezra immediately started his rooster impression when he saw it. What can I say? The kid loves birds almost as much as I do.

There’s a little house steps away from where we go to church. From a cluttered carport, a free roaming rooster emerges each time we pass. If you talk to the rooster, he’ll talk back making that sound Ezra is so fond of. A couple Sundays ago, I let Ezra linger by the rooster, watch him through the fence. They chatted, I snapped pictures, one of which I used as a reference for today’s painting.

Elizabeth Bishop’s poem is less innocent than toddler sounds. The roosters are “cocky”, beautiful, violent, symbols of both Peter’s denial and his own redemption. The poem begins loud, ends quietly. I get it– how many times does the terrible transform into the glorious:

“ear-encrusted thick

as a medieval relic

he waits. Poor Peter, heart-sick,

still cannot guess

those cock-a-doodles yet might bless,

his dreadful rooster come to mean forgiveness.”

 

If you can make it all the way through the very long poem,  it’s a good read. And if you can’t, but still want something to do, write me a story from your own life. It need not be as dramatic as the apostle Peter’s; it might just be as simple as Ezra’s delight in what we adults often don’t even notice, much less admire.

 

 

“Roosters” by Elizabeth Bishop

 

At four o’clock

in the gun-metal blue dark

we hear the first crow of the first cock

 

just below

the gun-metal blue window

and immediately there is an echo

 

off in the distance,

then one from the backyard fence,

then one, with horrible insistence,

 

grates like a wet match

from the broccoli patch,

flares,and all over town begins to catch.

 

Cries galore

come from the water-closet door,

from the dropping-plastered henhouse floor,

 

where in the blue blur

their rusting wives admire,

the roosters brace their cruel feet and glare

 

with stupid eyes

while from their beaks there rise

the uncontrolled, traditional cries.

 

Deep from protruding chests

in green-gold medals dressed,

planned to command and terrorize the rest,

 

the many wives

who lead hens’ lives

of being courted and despised;

 

deep from raw throats

a senseless order floats

all over town. A rooster gloats

 

over our beds

from rusty irons sheds

and fences made from old bedsteads,

 

over our churches

where the tin rooster perches,

over our little wooden northern houses,

 

making sallies

from all the muddy alleys,

marking out maps like Rand McNally’s:

 

glass-headed pins,

oil-golds and copper greens,

anthracite blues, alizarins,

 

each one an active

displacement in perspective;

each screaming, “This is where I live!”

 

Each screaming

“Get up! Stop dreaming!”

Roosters, what are you projecting?

 

You, whom the Greeks elected

to shoot at on a post, who struggled

when sacrificed, you whom they labeled

 

“Very combative…”

what right have you to give

commands and tell us how to live,

 

cry “Here!” and “Here!”

and wake us here where are

unwanted love, conceit and war?

 

The crown of red

set on your little head

is charged with all your fighting blood

 

Yes, that excrescence

makes a most virile presence,

plus all that vulgar beauty of iridescence

 

Now in mid-air

by two they fight each other.

Down comes a first flame-feather,

 

and one is flying,

with raging heroism defying

even the sensation of dying.

 

And one has fallen

but still above the town

his torn-out, bloodied feathers drift down;

 

and what he sung

no matter. He is flung

on the gray ash-heap, lies in dung

 

with his dead wives

with open, bloody eyes,

while those metallic feathers oxidize.

St. Peter’s sin

was worse than that of Magdalen

whose sin was of the flesh alone;

 

of spirit, Peter’s,

falling, beneath the flares,

among the “servants and officers.”

 

Old holy sculpture

could set it all together

in one small scene, past and future:

 

Christ stands amazed,

Peter, two fingers raised

to surprised lips, both as if dazed.

 

But in between

a little cock is seen

carved on a dim column in the travertine,

 

explained by gallus canit;

flet Petrus underneath it,

There is inescapable hope, the pivot;

 

yes, and there Peter’s tears

run down our chanticleer’s

sides and gem his spurs.

 

Tear-encrusted thick

as a medieval relic

he waits. Poor Peter, heart-sick,

 

still cannot guess

those cock-a-doodles yet might bless,

his dreadful rooster come to mean forgiveness,

 

a new weathervane

on basilica and barn,

and that outside the Lateran

 

there would always be

a bronze cock on a porphyry

pillar so the people and the Pope might see

 

that event the Prince

of the Apostles long since

had been forgiven, and to convince

 

all the assembly

that “Deny deny deny”

is not all the roosters cry.

 

In the morning

a low light is floating

in the backyard, and gilding

 

from underneath

the broccoli, leaf by leaf;

how could the night have come to grief?

 

gilding the tiny

floating swallow’s belly

and lines of pink cloud in the sky,

 

the day’s preamble

like wandering lines in marble,

The cocks are now almost inaudible.

 

The sun climbs in,

following “to see the end,”

faithful as enemy, or friend.

 

 

 

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

September 13, 2014

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