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After Grandma Moses

So hard to know the subject: a meadow, dead center
of oils in green? Or left of it, this hyperactive wash scene:
milky-white shirts scattered on the green's mossy edge.
Rows of blanched sheets fluttering from taut lines
that hem the green, that keep the women with their laundry
always receding.  And opposite the sheets, a picket fence
that seems to frame the spongy grades of green and lime
and ask us to reflect on - what?  Something the women

and the others have quietly agreed to turn away from.
Look how they crowd their way into the margins.  Here, a harvest story:
flecks of red gathered into baskets. Words being said
between the harvesters.  Words so compelling that one of them stands
upright to view the other. Is he facing the painting's question?
Or does he only seem to look at him because they share
this tiny patch of goldenrod and green and picket fences?
Easy to grant: this kind of ground that parcels out our senses.

And far, far off from center, a first or last encounter:
a woman stops as she exits a dark, cool shed -
stops, not to adjust to the day's stark light
but to feel the gaze of a man more painted
than she, to feel the thrust of sepia:
his suit, dabbed on like that line of aging wood
outside the shed; like the sepia dresses of the women
nearby; like the silo, sepia and Indian red, that hedge her in.

Roads leading in, but not to the center of life.
Only the large white house, the same starched white
as the sheets the women hang. Windows with shades
half-drawn so evenly that they have clearly been painted on.
A front door shut so tight that it disappears, at times,
as white will against white. The chimney
(and so, the hearth) an afterthought
in browns and burgundy.  Is this the cache of colors then

that comes with knowing one's lot? The end of looking
east or west? The fertile ground fenced off?


Copyright © 2006 M. B. McLatchey All rights reserved.
Published  in Ekphrasis, Fall/Winter 2006.

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