Flemish Skies

Capricious, inventive, magnificent they are!

A short selection of a month’s gatherings during short trips, on which Odds and Lens set its lens on Lens (it was about time!), Arras, Dunkerque, Grand-Fort-Philippe.


  1. The art of forecasting past weather

    It occurred to Constable contemplating
    A Van Ruisdael winterscape
    Now in the collection
    Of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
    — It haunts my mind, he wrote
    (of another), and clings to my heart —
    That the tilt of the windmills
    And the furl of their sails
    The shapes of the sky
    And the light’s southern glow
    Spelled a weather forecast past

    The wind turning a warming
    Before the next morning
    A thaw

    Alas on these points
    I must trust the authorities, i.e.
    Constable himself (1836)
    And Gedzelman (1991)
    For I have neither
    Their eyes nor yours
    And I will not dare
    To venture what Howard (1802)
    Godfather of clouds
    Would have called
    This beautiful modification

    I am very sorry that to me
    They look like a bunch
    Of exquisite cotton balls


    1. It is a glorious achievement
      For a squad of cotton balls
      To be examined in the light
      Of many an expert’s insight

      “Suspended water” – twice suspended
      Intangible as only the past can be
      Clouds retain their aura of mystery
      Even in present photographs
      Where they effortlessly cohabit with light

      Van Ruisdael’s landscape – not currently on view –
      Is itself an image in a cloud

      But a look at his Flemish skies
      Could make us believe that
      “Those solemn days
      Peculiar to his country and to ours
      When without storm
      Large rolling clouds
      Scarcely permit a ray of sunlight
      To break the shades of the forest”
      Are eternal

      They make the present look like the fulfillment of a premonition

      Perhaps there is no contradiction
      Between the illustrious authorities you quote
      And your own opinion

      What if Gedzelman himself
      Decided to enlarge the temporal scale
      One evening, in New York,
      In May 1989,
      When the first episode of Seinfeld aired
      And he started thinking about the elasticity of clouds
      Both in their material
      And metaphorical substance?

      Later that evening, when going to sleep,
      He might have said to himself that painted clouds
      Had served for too long
      As cotton earplugs
      For those who refused to hear
      The sound of past winds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s