[I wrote this piece to read at the seventieth birthday party of Gilles Lacelle, a very good friend of mine. There are allusions here that are specific to the situation.]
Usually there would be two of us,
Gilles and I, lifting, fitting and cutting,
planning and discussing and finally
his favorite part, painting.
I’d be painting too, but I’d watch him:
other people would see the finished
set, but I would see his hands at work.
The brush was a designed
extension of his brain: he knew
where the paint was to go, delivered
to wood and canvas with practiced
strokes and rhythmical dabs.
I can hear in the ambience of that stage,
where magic animates and lifts words,
incarnates them, makes them
real: in brush strokes I hear echoes of
long-ago rhythm guitar and drum
swelling into rock ‘n roll that roared
into soft summer nights by the river;
they fade and young voices flow in:
A-ke-la, we’ll DOB DOB DOB;
I hear the footsteps of young students
needing help to sketch their horizons.
Even now the brush paints on
as he crafts his assured natural landscapes,
projections of the soaring soul within.
Perhaps as he paints he hums
one of the barbershop tunes he is learning,
or maybe it’s an old rock ‘n roll tune
that used to echo around the cabins
by the little bay in the river.
Tonight, we all dwell in this world
painted by Gilles, and irresistible.