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Lay for the Day
22nd July

1899: the sculptor Alexander Calder is born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, the child of two artists. His mother, Nanette, was a painter, and his father, Alexander, a sculptor. He made things from early childhood on, with the encouragement of his parents, and had his own workshops in their various homes; but Alexander Junior's first career was in engineering. In 1922 he took up art studies and he later became an illustrator for the National Police Gazette. He moved to Paris in 1926. Here are two of his wire sculptures from the Museum of Modern Art in the Pompidou Centre in Paris:
The poem is from Characters, a series of portraits, first of friends and acquaintances and then, in a second section, of imagined people. They’re made for the most part of skinny four-syllable lines, something, perhaps, like images in wire.


Slight as morning
rain, the sixteen-
lisping pixie,
also as wire,

throws her slimness
on wild fortune,
the mercy of
smacked-out squats and
drear B&Bs,
from man to man.

(Thunder and rain
in the Ching means
big love coming.
Ready yourself
to be ambushed
by it, undone.)

The poppy-juice
habit won’t heal
the crack. Would your
split twin-brother’s
mind be one if
you’re made nothing?

Pack your troubles:
ailing mother,
half-used lovers,
junk. That grip won’t
let the good you
could do them be.

Make them freedom
of clay and space.
At the mild pace
of a lakeside,
sky-covered place,
figure them out.


John Gibbens
from Characters: You & I

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar