Bucket & Brush

After God dashed Himself against the world,
those looking for Him were fooled.

"Seraphine, why haven't you made the tea?"
"Seraphine, get busy on the floors."
Seraphine, take up your bucket and brush,
on your knees, facing backward on the second stair,
seeing wild blooms in the harsh lye soap.

After God dashed himself against the world,
He became as tiny as a seed.

See Seraphine, the lunatic, kneeling in awe before the Virgin,
filled with gratitude for her materials--
the Resurrection in candle wax and sheep's blood.
"Seraphine, when you're done in the kitchen...
the hallway...
the upstairs..."
"Seraphine, when you're done...."

All night, on the hard boards of her room,
knees shrieking, back locked up, shoulders cramping,
Seraphine paints with brush and fingertip
the natural visions she sees.
At these times, her smile is drawn by the Divine.
"Seraphine is a mooncalf, a loon, a half-wit."
In the morning, on an hour's dream-soaked sleep,
she returns to her drudgery.

After God dashed Himself against the world,
He rode in the cuffs and pockets of the ones He chose,
as humble and unseen as a grain of salt.
"There's Seraphine, talking to the trees."
"Seraphine, stop that singing!"
"As mad as seven cats, that one."

After God dashed Himself against the world,
He sent his Saints to speak to Saint Joan.
She heard, and led an army against the English.
She saw a king crowned.
Every French schoolchild knows her name,
but she was just an illiterate village girl.

The proper,
the practical,
the privileged and the pretenders
gather in pews on Sunday in Senlis.
They fill the basket and recite the familiar words,
speaking uninflected to Someone not evidently there.

Seraphine took up her bucket and brush
as Joan did her sword.

In the face of every flower,
every leaf,
every bright miraculous fruit,
see the recreated face of God, in Holy magnificence.
See the drudge, the madwoman, the painter,
her face lit up,
singing to nobody anyone can see,
out of her mind,
and filled with a beautiful unwavering faith as simple as seed and bloom.

for Fireblossom Friday at Real Toads: the art of Seraphine de Senlis. The painting at top is hers.


Sherry Blue Sky said…
Oh my goodness, this poem is so completely perfect, there is just no point writing anything. You have said it all to perfection. I see her, scrubbing the steps, with images of painting in her mind. I love her singing to nobody anybody can see. I relate only too well to Seraphine. A brilliant write, Shay.
hedgewitch said…
Yes, I think you see her very clearly here Shay--you make me see her, feel her, anyway. I love the concept of god dashing himself to pieces and riding around in her cuff--the fine lines between religion and madness, art and religion, art and madness---just a beautiful, stinging and luminous poem. Thanks for the introduction to Seraphine, and for this challenge which helped me get off high center and finally write something.
Susan said…
I swoon. Here is all. Thank you for this poem, the prompt, the holy experience just short of madness when God sacrifices self over and over and the mystic speaks ecstasy. Good song too.
Susan said…
May I share this poem?
Fireblossom said…
Susan--yes, of course. :-)
Sumana Roy said…
you truly show who and what Seraphine was so vividly...
cosmos cami said…
I can picture the painting nodding her head about every word you've written and pointing at the truths she recognizes from her life.
The last stanza is so moving.
Anonymous said…
"After God dashed himself against the world" has such power, even more for its repetition throughout the poem. Brilliant!
Anonymous said…
Such wonderful power!
Mama Zen said…
This is exquisite. Truly, Shay.
Beautiful - the truly holy see holiness in every face, even mine.
Sioux Roslawski said…
Exquisite is the perfect description.
Gail said…
So beautifully written with color and sadness
Kerry O'Connor said…
You have captured something akin to the essence of genius here - the infusion of selfhood so keenly felt that it cannot be denied. If god has been smashed to smithereens and left bits of divinity in the atmosphere, then the world is blessed indeed to have those among us who have grace in blood and bone, though it lead to madness.
Susie Clevenger said…
Shay, there is so much to say about this piece I don't know how to begin. First of all the visuals are so well written I can see Seraphine about her drudgery, in the throws of art, her commune with God. I love "After God dashed himself against the world" Vivid storytelling as always. Beautiful!
Anonymous said…
fantastic. you've caught the scent of divine intervention, the casual cruel burghers, the intensity of genius. ~
Gail said…
"After God dashed Himself against the World" He created you and your gift to share.

Hannah said…
"seeing wild blooms in the harsh lye soap"

I saw this in her, too...definitely and I love this in your closing:

"In the face of every flower,
every leaf,
every bright miraculous fruit,
see the recreated face of God, in Holy magnificence"

You capture her story so well...this holds a bit of the Cinderella quality only different of course. Any way I really enjoyed your take on this, Shay!
Margaret said…
"Seraphine took up her bucket and brush
as Joan did her sword."

Honestly, I can not tell you how taken I am with this challenge. I really have no right writing a poem until I catch up on my commenting, but I couldn't help myself. I am going to watch the movie soon and I googled her name and read all sorts of posts on her.

With the flavor of your poem, I know you did too. It is steeped in her toil, her misery and her elation - the people who shun her, yet God rides inside her cuff (SO loved that). A beautiful homage to an artists I now am quite taken with for the first time. Thank you.
Helen said…
Perfection in poetry ... you brought Seraphine to life ~ unbelievable how you do that.
Anonymous said…
"After God dashed Himself against the world,"

only you could conceive of such an action, SP! this is probably the most stunning tribute Seraphine could ever receive!

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