Tricia over at The Miss Rumphius Effect asked us to stretch (poetry-wise) this week with an ekphrastic poem - one that addresses a work of art (though Tricia cut us all some slack and said it could be related to anything "behind the museum door" in honor of Lee Bennett Hopkins' new book of the same name.) Here's my poem, based on Monet's "Woman with a Parasol." The painting took my breath away when I saw it at the Art Institute of Chicago many years ago - it was on loan from the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. The painting is sometimes called "La Promenade" (The Stroll - oh, that's a nice title for someone who likes to drift....) or even "Camille Monet and Her Son, Jean" :
ON SEEING MONET'S WOMAN WITH A PARASOL
She’s open-eyed, like any wild
animal that's over-constrained or riled
but not showing any teeth –
she is, after all, Victorian, complete
down to the parasol she carries outside
into the dangerous light,
the sun being a source of some distress
and the wind in her dress
like hot hounds nipping, and a hill
to overcome before she’s home – still
you stare at her bright center, so
strange and generous, so
unguarded and surrendering.
You stare: sunlight bending
up from the summer grass paints her elbow
a color both the blind and the sighted envy: yellow.
And the air becomes unlike any breathed
variety, her blue-on-white sleeve
canaries and flutters, shining.
It’s a moment of burning –
but you find the unshaded point
that will let you in, the vulnerable point
of convergence. You’re as scared
as the child behind her, both of you unprepared
for this flight you're about to take into the bend
of her left arm, when suddenly the guard sends
a stern warning: Don’t get too close.
You step back and say I won't.
Tricia mentioned something about favorite museums, and I have to save that nothing has ever surpassed the Cluny in Paris for me - a collection focused on the Middle Ages, which I love, all housed in a medieval building. To resist that museum and its time-travel magic, you would have to be made of ice. Click on the link here and spend a few minutes/hours/days/years/lifetimes. Here's a photo of the vaulting, via flickr.com -
I think I'll keep this post up for Poetry Friday, too, since Friday is only a few hours away. It's going to be hosted this week over at Becky's Book Reviews, so check there tomorrow. Thanks, Becky!