The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Charles Bardes

Vincent his Letters


to paint
darkness   that
yet is       color


a white horse in the mud
bales covered in oilcloth
heaped against smoky walls


wheat is wheat though
urban passers-by
see only grass


the priest bade me not draw
persons beneath my station
the girl with child, me suspected


radiance itself, once
shown by nimbus,
now vibration of color


let the work
not stink
of cleverness


to know God
love much with high
sympathy and strength


melancholy may
yet lead
to light


rather than nudes, might
you draw ordinary
people their clothes on


I see a chance
of giving a felt
impression of what I see
to paint the old postman
as I feel him



Charles Bardes

Scribes Pigments


Red vermillion

brazilwood boiled in ditchwater
poured through chalk,
covered till cold



grind verdigris into your inkstand
add the finest wort you might find
stir together, and write


Other greens

verdigris tempered
with pennywort, iris, or
juice from a rotted apple



melt gum arabic in egg white
add fine-ground chalk, apply
with a pencel, let dry,
and lay thereon the silverfoil,
dab with a hare’s tail, and with
a hound’s tooth rub thy letter



gold the same, but grind
red ocher into the glue
to loose its color


Tempered azure

gum arabic in clear water
cast into fine azure
with earwax, and then write


            after British Library, Harley MS 2253




CHARLES BARDES is a physician who practices and teaches medicine in New York.  His books include Diary of Our Fatal Illness, a prose-poem that narrates the illness and death of an aged man; and Pale Faces: The Masks of Anemia, an extended lyric essay.  Other poems, essays and ruminations have appeared in Agni, Raritan, Ploughshares, Birmingham Poetry Review, Literary Imagination, Great River Review, &c.  In 2018 he received the New Georgia Literary Achievement Award.


Previous | Next