Jamie Wyeth’s Seagulls
A few months ago the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston showed paintings by Jamie Wyeth (b.1946). The recently published catalogue places Jamie Wyeth within the line of realist painters with his father and grandfather. Wyeth himself claims that he is no more a realist painter than “the man in the moon”. One essay from the catalogue sees Wyeth’s use of animals related to the Symbolists who believed in “the importance of nature as a storehouse of images that connects humanity to the larger spiritual world…”
Seagulls, observed by New England beachgoers today, appear in rude array in Wyeth’s paintings.
My poem One-legged seagull was published years ago in an anthology about New England shore life, titled: Nantucket.
at the town landfill, the pleasant resort
of a scavenger’s dream, serving
rotted rare portions in black plastic wrap
and smeary old news around soft browning remnants
of kitchen and yard.
Even this beggar in front of my car
may step up to table and find maybe mustard
on swordfish skin, gristle of pork chops,
gray-on-green orange rind, wet limping lettuce.
What method maimed this unfortunate diner
balancing here at a midday buffet?
The hooked beak of a brother?
Sharp clamp of a lover?
Severe barking bite of a gray outlaw stranger?
Wet snap of a bluefish thrashing below,
finding little to like on that leathery claw?
Gash from a sharp stone thrown by some bather
grown edgy and mean in unblinking anger
that stares in at noon on white whiners
and peg legs, pirates and urchins,
vagrants and princes, same as on seagulls.