Winter 2005



Jack Foley

not brooding but some
activity of mind
your smile:
your small size
(always looking up!)
your large eyes
not inquisitive
but demanding
your old world elegance
your awkwardness
“So how are you?” you asked
greeting a friend at the door
in your pleasant, deliberate English
He answered grandly, gesturing with his hands,
you didn’t understand
and asked again
he answered, with the same gesture,
still not understanding,
you ushered him in
I saw that hesitation
you wished the world
to go smoothly
to proceed with the grace you imagined
to be part of your vie bohème
and yet
things happened
things you couldn’t control or account for:
And Martin Baer
dead these many years
Where is the painting he made
of you with the little girl face?
“I know I don’t look like that any more,”
you said sadly
If I remember,
there was lots of blue in that painting --
for the virgin Martin saw in you?
Tiny Nata,
everyone towering over you
“She’s mad,” said Josephine Carson, “absolutely mad”
but she loved you and may be welcoming you now
“Martin Baer -- everyone’s least favorite painter,”
said Jo,
“even if he did look like Jean Cocteau”
I heard him praised by his friend Robert Duncan
Measured phrases that brought him vividly to life
What a wonderful picture you took of Duncan in his prime!
And how sad you were when you thought he had forgotten you:
“You can’t expect everyone to love you always”
But we all expect that, Nata
you no less than anyone else
we all expect love
and moan about sorrow
but you were quiet about your bad luck when you had it
or at least you were to me
I see you seated at that table
(the one in the photo with the rose)
serving me tea
and I suddenly realize: That’s the table in the picture
Yes you said, happy about my realization
I felt at times that you evaded intimacy
despite your dinners and lunches
and the young women who loved you and came to learn from you
How you wanted a “set”
something left over from Europe
a group of intimates
who spoke of art and laughed and made you feel free
Now, Nata, you are free
of even the visual which was your primary sense
free of all the images that crowded around you
in your darkrooms in your long journey from Europe to the New World in your small light-capturing apartments in your heavy tears in your long life in your deep longing in your Polish words in your home for the aged (where I could not bring myself to visit you) in your dear life to which you clung with such persistence in your death in your death in your death
(Author's Note: Photographer Nata Piaskowski died in 2004 at the age of 92. I had known her for many years. Her photograph of Robert Duncan on the cover of "Bending the Bow" is a wonder.)

Jack Foley's most recent poetry book is the by-invitation "Greatest Hits 1974-2003" (Pudding House Press). His radio show, "Cover to Cover," is heard every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. on Berkeley station, KPFA; the show can be accessed at His column, "Foley's Books," appears in the online magazine, The Alsop Review (



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