7-3 poem

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.


A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

7.3 (Summer 2007)




Lt. Col. Michael H. Lythgoe (USAF, Rtd.) delivered a talk on the connections between painting and poetry this past June 8  at the Morris Museum in Augusta , Georgia . In submitting the poem below, he helpfully noted, “I am talking about the  poets who have painted and painters who seem drawn to poetry.  I am also reading some original poems written in response to paintings in the Morris Museum collection. One of the painters, Philip Morsberger, has a show called ‘A Passion for Painting’ hanging until 17 June.  I had a chance to hear him in conversation last week with a friend and English art critic, Christopher Lloyd, who knew Morsberger years ago when he was teaching at the Ruskin School at Oxford.  LLoyd is the author of a book on Morsberger’s art titled as the show.  LLoyd writes: ‘One writer has referred to Morsberger’s pictures as prayers on canvas.’  Morsberger was quoted as saying his paintings are… ‘all about death and resurrection’.  Even his abstracts show figures mysteriously moving from darkness to light.”

Painting Dick Tracy into Heaven

(after Philip Morsberger’s paintings in the Morris Museum of Art)  


His father flew to heaven in a hat.

Painters are seers, so we hear prayers

As gazers, following the floating hat.


He paints figures in a rush, outlined, flat.

Impatient muralist—monk—at work making prayers.

His father comes from heaven as a hat.


Benedictines wear cassocks black as bats;

Artist’s apprehension is reason for prayer—

Light from dark; red airplane—an acrobat.


Christ’s Ascension in Bonnard’s blues—from flat

Canvas where colors are pushed, shaped into prayers.

The Holy Ghost wears Dick Tracy’s hat.


A fish symbol from catacombs?  Is that

A gold fish from Matisse?  Paintings are prayers,

Van Gogh’s echoes; goggles find habitat—


Light—returning to funny papers, that

Joyful boy from Baltimore , at prayer;

He sees Golgotha in El Greco; at

The foot of the Cross, a clown; blessed be the hat.


Philip Morsberger