Earl Sherman Braggs wrote us a poem. / by Melissa Hefferlin

Portrait of Earl Sherman Braggs by  Timur Akhriev

Portrait of Earl Sherman Braggs by Timur Akhriev

Daud and I met Natalie and Braggs when we were still a very young couple. It was an opening in the home of art dealer Linda Woodall, the beginning of a treasured friendship. I’ve benefited from cross-pollination with the couple, exchanging music and ideas, doing so when we’re lucky over their wonderful food. We share a history with the former Soviet Union, as both Daud and Natalie (Earl’s wife) were born there. Earl admires the poet Anna Akhmatova, and he and Natalie have toured Russia and the Ukraine. Conversation with them is always intriguing, sometimes passionate, always treasured.

To have Earl unexpectedly send us this beautiful composition about our meeting was a life highlight. It’s an honor to share it with you.

I hope you’ll enjoy the work, which I think sounds great read out loud. Never miss an opportunity to hear Earl read his work in person. His books are available on Amazon and from Anhinga Press.

Melissa meets Daud
for everyone, Champagne


Linseed oil, pastel colored paint impressionistically etched
into the actual color of unmixed reflected light that night,

the night she met him somewhere beneath the sometimes
stubborn white branches of Russian white birch trees. So

the lack of shimmering leaves remembered their names
as white Russian winters would have them not. Sometimes

the colors of paint forget the words, but the canvas always
plays on, music, like pages of a Boris Pasternak love song.

Van Gogh said yellow is the color of love. Saint Petersburg
was still a yellow city then. Patiently, without words, they

fell in color with the silent love of canvas covered wet paint.
Real-life and still-life afforded each enough natural light to

see the small softness of harsh rides on subways and Russian
crowded bus stops/steps up, down Nevsky Prospekt (Street).

A song, perhaps the first, they sang on the steps of the Singer
Building, Prince Alexander Nevsky’s most notable landmark,

in Soviet times known simply as the House of Books. There,
they read/re-read the short story of each other’s eyes. There,

he taught to her the Red Square root of Russia. There, she
taught to him the circumference of an American circle. There,

they taught to each other that color has no shape. Texture
and concept tried to tie her balance to his, still they fell from

atop the tallest roof in that yellow town, spinning, spinning,
down, down at the speed of floating flowers, Van Gogh’s

sunflowers, one dozen like roses. A vase, slowly back-dropped
in a pillow of yellow. Soft Flowers land softly, the steps of art.

So there they were, playing paint. Melissa waltzing the way
a red dress waltzes, waltzing across a palette page, a perfect

stage, still-life, Green, oil on linen—blown glass green bottle,
big as the chair upon which it sits—a green silk scarf hangs

from the left side chair back, sweeping, cascading, pleasingly
graceful, elegant. Softly fanning blue, a painted floor. Miles

away in the next room, Quiet Neighborhood, Venice, Daud,
slow brushing the colors of slow drying paint before looking


into the eyes of Laura in Blue, (figurative) oil/11.625x7.9375.
Stylistic pluralism, Daud and Melissa, realism and still-life.

The first time they met was not the first time they met, for
they, each, had known forever, the brushing sounds of color.

Repin Institute of Painting painted them before they painted
each other that Saint Petersburg night when the city was still

Van Gogh yellow. I met them in America one art show night,
a night when the necessary was so unnecessary. Perhaps by

chance, first glance, I knew who the coloring book colored
them to be. Me, I’m a poet. Recognition, not a hard question.

A place of galleried paintings, seemingly miles from anywhere,
a room of art rooms, Linda Woodall’s place, a house placed deep,

dark in sacred woods. There in the lobby of painted life, still-life,
my wife and I stood, situated upon edges sharp enough to believe

in the comedy and tragedy of love. This is where we met Melissa
and Daud drifting without drifting amongst tables for tea, coffee,

red and white art-opening-night wine, red caviar and cheese. It
was one of those nights when the moon knew everybody’s name.


In conversations banked upon Russian vodka banked upon being
Swedish made, they drove us that evening through Russian city

streets of The Long Winding Road. The Beatles took us home as
I remember. Too awake to drive, I was remembering the colors

of them standing upon things remembered. They remembered
blue as the two painters painted Timur, Daud’s son, softly into

the picture as the third painter in a family of three. Together,
madly, they all fell in love with what they were already in love

with, the perennially planted brilliancy of soft drying paint. Then
when in Spain, Spain already knew how to spell Melissa’s name.

Madrid, ever the kid in Daud’s playful mind, knew him as well.
He kissed Kiss of the Peacock-oil on canvas. Delivery Boats-oil

on gessoed panel, Evening at the Port, Harbor Conversation, Daud,
talking on water again. And in Spain where Spanish dirt invited

each of them to plant olive trees and watch them grow, he painted
the matador and the bull. The Spanish sun loved his studio light.

The Spanish moon loved her rhythm, Spanish Rhythm-oil on canvas,
76x40cm; Sevillanas and Stallions-oil on canvas, 200x 100cm. Jazz


in the lobby of a painter’s life, a Spanish guitar, a piano. I know
paint and colors on canvas don’t know perfect. Perfection doesn’t

want to know the colors and textures of wet paint. Improvisation
knows without knowing, improvisation feels without feeling what

painters and poets and Miles Davis, trumpeting Sketches of Spain
never learns to name— that which can be named is not the Tao.

Melissa meets Daud, beautiful meets magic, wet paint meets brush
for lunch; champagne-chilled, caviar, Canvas Cafe, and then, Zen.”

Earl Sherman Braggs