Zeshin has made a monkey out of someone here.
Is it the bourgeois patron of the arts
who sees himself redeemed, saved from his lack
of aristocracy by taste, or something like it,
finding his simian true self captured
in delicate, refined shapes of netsuke?
Or does the artist ape himself, mocking
his own ambitions to be lacquerer supreme,
master of artifacts he makes, collects,
and recollects, as all around him old Edo
is roaring toward becoming Tokyo?
Or does he have us in mind, as we stare
at these wittily bizarre reflections,
the deftly arcane musings of Shibata Zeshin,
whose secrets we pretend to fathom,
aping the pose of refined collection?
About the Author: Joseph Stanton has published poetry in a wide variety of journals and anthologies including Poetry, Poetry East, The New York Quarterly, Ekphrasis, and Harvard Review. His work has been collected in Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O'ahu, What the Kite Thinks, and Cardinal Points: Poems on St. Louis Cardinals Baseball. His scholarly work has appeared in such journals as American Art, Art Criticism, The Journal of American Culture, and Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal. The Scarecrow Press has just published his new study, The Important Books: Children's Picture Books as Art and Literature. Stanton teaches art history and American studies at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
Copyright © 2007 by Joseph Stanton. The poem may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.