Erik Noonan

Erik Noonan is the author of the poetry collections Stances (Bird & Beckett, 2012) and Haiku d’Etat (Omerta, 2013). He lives in San Francisco with his wife Mireille.


Degas: Dancer Posing for a Photograph

shock tactics composition-as-arrangement
jargon learning-from-nature metaphysics
with ties to all camps he sought an obstacle
exercises in the esoteric Valéry says
his dark eye never saw rosy light
“painting isn’t difficult if you don’t know”
Morisot recalls droll vivid table talk politics
high-minded violent impossible as himself
here a lofty studio’s tall windows show
winter roofs diffuse backlight mingles
sheer artifice of circumstance with her
selfpossessed balance yet what she felt
blurs like the master when extinguished early
he rode the open decks of trams at evening  




Manet: Chez Tortoni

not the Great Writer he might have painted
ten years ago desk hedged about
with colored prints plus beard pretentiously
who lays a ladies’ paradise aside
to pose in profile as premier realist
instead this moment stolen little canvas
looks as if he made it on the spot
stranger collar and hat comme il faut caught
bock untouched café ignored cane chair forgot
mot juste is just what he lacks the single word
servility of portraiture delirium of
impression both recede before an image
city man ink on the make modern creature
playing “the game of speech” therein most human




Vermeer:  Woman With a Lute

no yellow sleeve hung dancelike at wrist and elbow
in muted contrasts with such a Fuck It air
coat appears in the other paintings
building’s not hers instrument even face
only this gesture tuning up belongs
turning away out over whatever else
notes bend she half smiles suspense slips
between moods humors her eyes give voice to
the lute would have been a throwback by those days
hark falsely to simpler times fewer debts
less property take loved ones off leaving
wall map and viol cold company
house a mere reliquary not hers
who was all that enterprise knew of grace