from An Homage to Ivan Shishkin

In the Wild North, 1891
(Oil on canvas 161 x 118 cm)
BY Ivan Shishkin
Museum of Russian Art, Kiev

― His painting In the Wild North, 1891

He stands alone, foot poised on the hilltop
a vision seen through borrowed eyes,

the eagle, lynx, the ermine and the fox.
Shadows from the clouds mark his days.

Stars drink the breath he gives at night;
he is the Shaman’s spirit of the drum,

He rules alone, dressed in snow and ice,
he is the Shepherd of the Northern Lights

Pulling dreams to earth, to strum their fire.
Gathering wishes from heaven’s wilderness,

He heals from fragments of lost desires.
And turns upon his plinth of frozen earth

The skirt of his great coat is skins of white
from wolf and bear, his hat a crown

Where braided tassels fall in twists of ice,
his face veiled by snow is turned aside

His shoulders slope by crests of fallen snow
as though his spirit molted from within

He changes where the world is locked and still
invisible, his will a seeking, questing hand

Where mind exists, as pregnant as tomorrow
without the words for self and want and hope.

He is the Shaman’s drum, inside a tree of light
his voice of colors drifts down from the stars.

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