Under Dust

Found on a flyleaf: “Awarded to Fanny for an Essay on ‘What I saw during my trip to the orphanage’. Sept 19111

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893), “November Moonlight”

The art book when I find it
is pristine with dust, a gray snowfall,
only the flurries fall upward in the sunlight

defying gravity, defying the orderly Milky Way
of my existence, its fixed planetary motions
with phantoms of metaverses like motes

in my eyes: Marcel² says, “leave it under the bed”:
but the plank is in his eye: this dust is
important as marble, a tombstone in the tundra

of which I am custodian, and I hate the gloved hand
that gave it and know the open hand that received it
and I would not disturb the fixed leaves

that shelter the child who murmurs “dada”
then “rosebud”
then dies.

Man Ray, Dust Breeding (Dust over work by Marcel Duchamp), ca. 1920

1Inscription (with edit) from The Book of Inscriptions Project

2French artist/writer Marcel Duchamp let dust collect in a spot under his bed (he called it “growing dust”), instructing his maid not to clean it.

For Shay's Word Garden List - Ghost Eaters (choose at least 3 of 20 words) and dVerse's MTB (pick one of the five inscriptions given as an epigraph.

22 thoughts on “Under Dust

  1. Sherry Marr

    Your note about the flyleaf makes me imagine the story that must lie behind those words. Wow. A very intriguing poem. Your closing lines are AMAZING. Wow.


  2. a wonderful poem Dora – the voice here speaks with the lightest of emphasis on the profound, making it a joy to listen to. Loved these lines:
    “is pristine with dust, a gray snowfall,
    only the flurries fall upward in the sunlight”


  3. The elegaic mood of this is paradoxically lush and austere, and in its way reflects that surreal spirit of the incongruous of the artists mentioned. Dust in the sunlight, dust covering our works, the dust we are. This left me feeling wistful, sad for something lost or about to be lost. A very fine poem.


    1. Thank you for your acute reading and feedback, Joy, particularly your reflection on “that surreal spirit of the incongruous” in art and in life, which is very much a part of what I intended. 🙂


  4. Sometimes I can’t comment right away and have to come back again later, as I’m doing now. I have read this about a dozen times and see some new detail more clearly each time. As Hedge has observed, your poem is rich with a feeling of saudade, of things not finished, or finished and not to be disturbed. I am fascinated with the gloved and open hands and wish I knew what the story was behind that. I see this as written by the maid, who may have understood the painter better than he understood himself. Or so I read.

    You might find it interesting that my relative was a painter and muralist named Edward Emerson Simmons. My father, born in 1912 (I was his late life child!) knew Edward personally and shared some of what he told him with me. He said our family (my father’s side) are an odd bunch but seem to find one thing each is good at and to make a success of doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The artistic vein runs deep in your family, Shay, unsurprisingly. “Odd” is an adjective that seems to adhere to the creative and as I’ve gotten older I’m learning it’s more a badge of honor (even courage) than not. Thank you so much for taking the time to engross yourself (a compliment in itself) in this piece which is a puzzle that reassembles itself for me each time I look at it. I agree with you that the maid is the persona. I like yours and Hedge’s characterization of it as a saudade, and that the allusions work towards that. Definitely what I was going for. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is just exquisite: “a gray snowfall, / only the flurries fall upward in the sunlight //
    defying gravity, defying the orderly Milky Way / of my existence” So much of the poem as well, an ode to dust and the great artists of that milieu. Nice to land on “Rosebud,” LOL!


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