Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all
Ye need to know on earth, and all ye need to know. [Keats]
I am painting Gandalf, I think.
This old man—
long beard, paunchy belly, drooping skin—
models for us artists in this
models model, painters paint, draughtspeople draw—
the room rocking to Led Zeppelin,
otherwise silent except for the soft grates
of pencils drawing across rough paper.
He stands naked on an altar in the middle of the room,
a wizard staff clutched in his left hand.
Bright floodlights sculpt his flesh
into a geography of glares and shadows.
I draw, my pencil limning
his thin arms, the round curve of his torso,
weaving, modeling, immoderately gazing
to see, really see
what’s really there.
The model is the mode of the real,
the modulation of the truth,
but too is the truth, awaiting our
modulation in mimic (i)magery.
The artists gaze with the rapt attention of supplicants, as if
here, finally, was the beautiful truth
and the truthful beauty
we have all, always,
been waiting for.
The timer dings, and the old man model shifts,
sitting now on a stool.
We supplicants sigh, stretch, riffle pages
to find a new blank space,
choose medium and tools,
and bow our heads.