Whiskerino 2009

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  • posted: November 19 @ 1:08pm
Study in Orange and White
by Billy Collins

I knew that James Whistler was part of the Paris scene,
but I was still surprised when I found the painting
of his mother at the Musée d'Orsay
among all the colored dots and mobile brushstrokes
of the French Impressionists.

And I was surprised to notice
after a few minutes of benign staring,
how that woman, stark in profile
and fixed forever in her chair,
began to resemble my own ancient mother
who was now fixed forever in the stars, the air, the earth.

You can understand why he titled the painting
"Arrangement in Gray and Black"
instead of what everyone naturally calls it,
but afterward, as I walked along the river bank,
I imagined how it might have broken
the woman's heart to be demoted from mother
to a mere composition, a study in colorlessness.

As the summer couples leaned into each other
along the quay and the wide, low-slung boats
full of spectators slid up and down the Seine
between the carved stone bridges
and their watery reflections,
I thought: how ridiculous, how off-base.

It would be like Botticelli calling "The Birth of Venus"
"Composition in Blue, Ochre, Green, and Pink,"
or the other way around
like Rothko titling one of his sandwiches of color
"Fishing Boats Leaving Falmouth Harbor at Dawn."

Or, as I scanned the menu at the cafe
where I now had come to rest,
it would be like painting something laughable,
like a chef turning on a spit
over a blazing fire in front of an audience of ducks
and calling it "Study in Orange and White."

But by that time, a waiter had appeared
with my glass of Pernod and a clear pitcher of water,
and I sat there thinking of nothing
but the women and men passing by—
mothers and sons walking their small fragile dogs—
and about myself,
a kind of composition in blue and khaki,
and, now that I had poured
some water into the glass, milky-green.


brandon says:
This is a phenomenal portrait, Scriv.
Posted: Nov 19th, 2009 - 1:57pm -
gfmorris says:
Love the shot, David. Not a bad citation, either.
Posted: Nov 19th, 2009 - 2:16pm -
benfrank says:
i'm gonna have to go ahead and agree with the previous sentiments. this is a fantastic self portrait. well done, sir. well done indeed.
Posted: Nov 19th, 2009 - 3:05pm -
ThatGuy says:
This is a really great poem, but the photo is even better. Very well done.
Posted: Nov 19th, 2009 - 4:01pm -
keifel says:
that's an intense stare.
Posted: Nov 19th, 2009 - 4:53pm -
mackle says:
i swear i see the whiskerino logo reflected in your eyeballs
Posted: Nov 19th, 2009 - 7:50pm -
Scrivener says:
@brandon @gfmorris @benfrank @ThatGuy: Thanks so much. It's funny, I got a whole bunch of comments, DMs, and emails from women saying how much they liked this shot, but very little response on this site. So thanks for your comments.

@mackle: That's not a reflection. I have had the Whiskerino logo surgically implanted in my retinas so that I can spend the rest of my life looking at the world through beard-colored eyes.
Posted: Nov 20th, 2009 - 8:44am -
gfmorris says:
Hey, wouldn't you rather get comments from women than a bunch of bearded weirdos?

Wait, don't answer that.
Posted: Nov 20th, 2009 - 8:53am -
Scrivener says:
@gfmorris: Yes, of course, if that's an either/or choice. But I'd rather have both.
Posted: Nov 20th, 2009 - 9:49am -
gfmorris says:
You make a good point.

I look at Whiskerino like I do blogging: I never know what will spark a response. Like my 2007 King Beard---I just put it up, and never expected anything out of it. :shrug:
Posted: Nov 20th, 2009 - 9:55am -
Site closed!
Whiskerino. fin.