A View from Delft (John Berger)

March 10, 2009

In that town,
across the water
where all has been seen
and the bricks are cherished like sparrows,
in that town like a letter from home
read again and again in a port,
in that town with its library of tiles
and its addresses recalled by Johannes Vermeer
who died in debt,
in that town across the water
where the dead take the census
and there are no vacant rooms
for his gaze occupies them all,
where the sky is waiting
to have news of a birth,
in that town which pours from the eyes
of those who left it,
between two chimes of the morning,
when fish are sold in the square
and the maps on the walls
show the depth of the sea,
in that town
I am preparing for your arrival.

I first discovered John Berger through a collection of his essays on art called Sense of Sight. At the time I was working for a law firm, and I think my only fond memory of those nine months was reading Berger on my lunches in some vacated office with only window light to see by. I think I learned more about poetry from reading Berger on art than I have learned from any book about poetry. That Berger is both a painter, poet, and novelist probably explains it. I guess I have always enjoyed those moments when, by peering through the lens of one discipline, I have seen into another with new eyes.

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