Painter of Light™

“My favorite Kinkade? Well, that’d have to be the one I don’t have yet.”

—Don Davis of Mesquite, TX

i.

“Codpiece! Codpiece!” Poor Thom is in his cups again,
but yes, Roy Horn looks prominent
between his legs. While Siegfried leads a white tiger

from a glass box, Nanette and Mother usher Thom
back to himself. Another night at the Mirage
proceeds with pyrotechnics, flowing epaulettes,

and sequins flaring like a disco ball.
At the atelier in Morgan Hill, originals careen
from the line, signed with a DNA pen

whose ink is authentic hair and blood.
Soon, master highlighters will add a bit of oil
to the prints, thus coaxing familiar light

from the chocolate box: Sweetheart Cottages,
for instance, thatched like Cotswolds.
Where are the people? Inside, apparently.

Unseen fire emits its amber through
a million mullioned panes, “an avalanche
of imagery” which, like God himself, casts out

the dark. The plural of epigone, poor Thom
wrestles his demons through the azaleas
like anyone might, while honoring Christ.

“I like to portray a world without the fall,”
so he keeps everyone indoors, sinless, that we
may enter. No sign of Turner’s listing ships

threatens the sanctity of lighthouses
perched like candles on a bulwarked shore.
The ghost of Bierstadt mixes with the mist.

Picasso “had talent but didn’t use it
in a significant way.” It’s true he never
traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

ii.

Hard by a great forest, the young Kinkade
led a hardscrabble life. After mother sold all
the furniture, she let her kids “camp out”

and eat from tubs of peanut butter stamped
property of el dorado county.
The town of Placerville, not here or there,

a.k.a. Dry Diggins when the Rush was on,
became the sad Eden of his memory—
a place built less to love than leave. He did.

“Oh father,” said Hänsel, “I’m looking
at my white cat sitting on the roof,
wanting to say good-bye to me.”

The woman said, “You fool, that isn’t
your cat. That’s the morning sun
shining on the chimney.”

Epigone, maybe, of Hänsel, then—
Thom looked back at die Morgensonne
and began committing it to canvas,

without end. Foxgloves opened
their trumpets down a worn dirt path;
Thom walked off, casting bits of bread.

He had some help: “When I got saved,
God became my art agent.” His fate became
a business, and his business selling light.

There runs a mouse! Whoever catches it
may make a big fur cap. Thom chased, by foot
and private jet, making a killing instead.

iii.

Good Friday, Monte Sereno. At 54,
Thom died in his sleep: benzos and vodka.
The masses mourned; the art world muttered.

A whetstone to so many knives,
the man was loved despite his indiscretions.
“I sneeze in public, and I make a headline.”

Well, no. He groped a woman’s breasts
in South Bend, Indiana and exclaimed,
“Those are great tits!” The Land of Nod

got turned around and wandered West.
His toenails, when they found him,
were glitter-gold; his fingernails, vaguely green.

Legions of devotees and chancers sent the price
of paintings through the straw-lined roof.
The man, outliving himself, will reproduce

originals ad infinitum. You won’t find him
in the Whitney or at Crystal Bridges,
but in the foyers of America,

inviting us all to nowhere—away from
the crudeness of flesh, beyond
high-flown interpretation, into a snow globe

which one need only stir, on occasion,
to watch the ideal flakes whirl and settle
in a pattern that, at best, hurts no one.

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the author of Petty Theft, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, he is also the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He lives with his wife and son in Syracuse.
Nicholas Friedman

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Author: Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the author of Petty Theft, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, he is also the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He lives with his wife and son in Syracuse.