Joan Alice Wood Kimball – Three Poems


Walking the Tokaido Road

My future step is now. And now it’s past.
Trekking on slick cobbles tells its toll
on stubborn knees that undertake to last

until I reach the view — fogged, overcast.
Emptiness informs life’s unread scroll.
My future step is now. And now it’s past.

The shrine beside the road inspires a fast
and chanted prayers for sentient beings — all.
Stubborn knees have helped me to outlast

the horse that crowds the straw-wrapped dame harassed,
and the kago and three bearers from the metropole.
My future step is now. And now it’s past.

“I turned my head. That wanderer just passed
has melted into mist.” (Haiku retold
distracts in vain my stubborn knees outclassed.)

Finally the inn — with bath, repast —
is visible beyond the pine-topped knoll.
Now the future hill, o’er stepped, is passed.
My stubborn knees are laughing. Light at last.


Score for a Palette: Vermeer’s Window

Her hands on pitcher
and window,
the silver, the carpet,
her gown––I focus,
counterpointed by light:
hearing music
in color and line––
music in color and line.

The window,
a web of blue crystal;
the window, Concerto in D.
While I
hear a chord
as she swings it,
the light rushing in
changes keys for me––
transposes the signature key.

If a melody leaps
from ochre and flame
and I hear tonic tones
in the painting,
if the lady sings
in accents of blue,
shall I play her song
on strings for you––
play the colors for you?


Sailboat in the Bay

The setting is Cape Cod Bay at Brewster, Massachusetts,
where the tide recedes one mile from the beach every twelve hours.

The tide has lifted our wooden boat
To ride above the sandy bottom,
And chained to its anchor, there it will float

Where hardly an hour ago, forgotten,
With painted sides and a pointed bow
It lay ignored on the sandy bottom.

Abandoned, it sat dry-moored until now
When fish are swimming in watery flight
Under painted sides and a pointed bow.

Moon-drawn, shaded from predators’ sight,
Like birds in barns, fish dart protected,
These casual swimmers in watery flight.

In the shade of the boat fish feed undetected
Where it’s twice-a-day water and twice-a-day dry.
Like birds in barns, they dart protected.

A pendular flux, sometimes low, sometimes high,
Granting twice-a-day water and twice-a-day dry,
The tide has lifted our wooden boat,
And chained to its anchor, awhile it will float.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

In 1933 Sheed & Ward published a book of essays by Eric Gill called Beauty Looks After Herself. Eric Gill was the early 20th century English sculptor and typographer who designed letter fonts–– some that are still current––including “Gill Sans” and “Perpetua.” He believed that if the artist concentrated on the “rational,” as opposed to the “fancy,” he would create a thing of beauty. He said, “Ornamental typography is to be avoided no less than ornamental architecture in an industrial civilization. The truth is that a thing fit for its purpose is necessarily pleasant to use and also beautiful…. I think that if you look after goodness and truth, beauty will take care of itself.”

Eric Gill’s definition grows out of an art, typography, that is useful as well as beautiful. To my mind, his definition can be applied not only to the useful creations of human beings, but also to nature. Rainbows are rational too. But there is more to the concept. I believe there is no objective rule for everyone defining the Beautiful. Beauty is variously interpreted by each of us. Perhaps the only constant is that Beauty evokes a sense of euphoria in the soul. A person judges an object, experience, or scene to be beautiful when it strikes a deep chord or uplifting sense in that person.


Joan Alice Wood Kimball, a founder of the Concord Poetry Center and member of the Powow River Poets, has published two chapbooks of poetry, Summer River, and This River Hill. Her limerick “Cold October” is inscribed on a granite wall in Edmands Park, Newton, Mass. She has appeared in journals, including Arion, Atlanta Review, Comstock Review, Measure, and Raintown Review.

Featured image:  Hiroshige, Mishima Station on the Tokaido Road1834, color woodblock print.