American Life in Poetry: Column 305

The great Spanish artist Pablo Picasso said that, in his subjects, he kept the joy of discovery, the pleasure of the unexpected. In this poem celebrating Picasso, Tim Nolan, an attorney in Minneapolis, says the world will disclose such pleasures to us, too, if only we pay close attention.

How can we believe he did it –
every day – for all those years?

We remember how the musicians
gathered for him – and the prostitutes

arranged themselves the way he wanted –
and even the helmeted monkeys

with their little toy car cerebella –
posed – and the fish on the plate –

remained after he ate the fish –
Bones – What do we do with this

life? – except announce: Joy.
Joy. Joy – from the lead –

to the oil – to the stretch of bright
canvas – stretched – to the end of it all.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by Tim Nolan, whose most recent book of poetry is The Sound of It, New Rivers Press, 2008. Poem reprinted from Water~Stone Review, Vol. 11, Fall 2008, by permission of Tim Nolan and the publisher. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.