PoetryMagazine.com

Vivian C. Shipley
USA

Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor and Editor of Connecticut Review, Vivian Shipley has taught at Southern Connecticut State University since 1969. She was named Faculty Scholar in 2000, 2005 and 2008. Her 9th full length book, The Poet, is forthcoming in 2015 from Southeastern Louisiana University, Louisiana Literature Press. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize five times, she has published 8 books of poetry and 6 chapbooks. Her eighth book of poetry, All of Your Message Have Been Erased, was published in 2010 by Southeastern Louisiana University. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, it won the 2011 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, the Sheila Motton Book Award from New England Poetry Club and the CT Press Club Prize for Best Creative Writing. In 2010, her sixth chapbook, Greatest Hits: 1974-2010 was published by Pudding House Press. She has received the Library of Congress's Connecticut Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to the Literary Community and the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry from the Center for the Book. Other poetry awards include the Lucille Medwick Prize from the Poetry  Society of America, the Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Prize, the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize from the University of Southern California, the Marble Faun Poetry Prize from the William Faulkner Society, the Daniel Varoujan Prize from the New England Poetry Club and the Hart Crane Prize from Kent State. Raised in Kentucky, with a PhD from Vanderbilt, she was inducted into the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni in April, 2010. In 2011, she was awarded The Paterson Review Prize for Service to the Literary Community from the Poetry Center at PCCC, and was awarded a CT Arts Grant for Poetry in 2011.

 

 

 

The Faithful Colt

--William Michael Harnett, 1890

Left hand caressing his pistol, Wadsworth Athaneum's guard

has his arms crossed, but I am still scared that the man by me

will reach out for Harnett's painted revolver, snare drumming

bullets to jostle my heart. Dressed like he grew up in Kentucky,

I picture him in a Harlan County shotgun house up on cinder

blocks where a child with any sense knew it was not safe

to get up during the night for a drink of water. Looking twisted

as a tin roof hooked by wind, I doubt this man cares Harnett

had parental influence on geometrical abstractions of Mondrian.



Does he know his eyes are being fooled, that trompe l'oeil

has objects occupy a shallow space so appearance of reality

is not spoiled by parallax shift if a viewer moves? Luminosity,

texture no photograph can provide, three dimensions in two,

cry out to be touched. Even birds flew down to peck chips

from purple grapes painted by the ancient Greek, Zeuxis.



As a shield, to impress this man I fear, should I spout how

Harnett's The Old Violin at Cincinnati's 1886 Industrial Expo

was so realistic that a woman tried to pull it from the wall

for her virtuoso son to play? Even Niccolo Paganini could

not finger music from The Faithful Colt slanted on a crazed

wooden panel, cracked white hunting horn handle up, double

barrel down, trigger hooked on a rusty nail that seems to bleed.



The museum brochure says William Harnett allows the eye

and mind to feel. That's why I watch hands of the man next

to me.It's noon. First the guard, and then man move on. Alone,

I wonder what if Samuel Colt had not received a patent in 1836

for the revolving cylinder containing 5 or 6 bullets, innovative

cocking device. Would a gunman still have flint lock pistols,

single or double shot muskets, have to pause, break a barrel

open, insert one or two rounds and then close the gun to fire?



There would be no headlines:


April 20, 1999. Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado.

13 dead, 21 wounded. Eric Harris fired a Hi-Point 995 Carbine

96 times, nicknamed his Savage Springfield 67 H shotgun,

Arlene from 'Doom' Dylan Klebold in a black tee shirt

stenciled with 'Wrath' in red shot a TEC-9 handgun 55 times.


April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia.

32 dead, 17 wounded. Too many Glock 19 and Walther P 22

bullets to count. Cho Seung-Hui established the record

for the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in US history.


July 12. 2012. Century 16's showing of 'The Dark Knight,'

Aurora, Colorado. 12 people killed, 58 wounded. James Holmes

dyed his hair orange. Smith & Wesson M&P 15 with a 100 round

drum magazine, back up Glock 22s, 12 gauge Remington 870.


What if Colt Manufacturing Company topped with gold stars

on a blue onion dome had not been founded across from the river

in Hartford less than fifty miles from Newtown, Connecticut?

Without his Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle, could Adam Lanza

have massacred 20 children and 6 adults on December 14, 2012,

in Sandy Hook Elementary classrooms, six and seven year

old bodies sprawled with 3 to 11 bullets pumped into each of them?


What if William Harnett's The Faithful Colt had stayed a canvas

mounted in the Athaneum's gallery, would Newtown's cemetery

of twenty-six cardboard angels and twenty silken angels white

as doves on Christmas trees wing to life, pull off the bedsheets

of mourning suffocating all those with tombstones in their hearts?

 

 

 

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Copyright, 2014,Vivian C. Shipley .
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