Monday, March 24, 2014

Portraits of the Conquered World

This red could not have been the red
of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains--
a keen choice of pigment one evening,
a hue that calls us over to a wall
where the light is low to keep it all from fading--
and so we look too carefully at red
and wonder what the real mountain looked like.

Over here in the intricate gold frame,
the Indian women are well dressed
and burdened with fine jars, lined up,
leaving hills on a winding road,
those hills maybe too calm, and the women
too calm will never go back, their earthen
wares to be broken, to be forgotten and sold,
and so we forget and move to the next exhibit.

I did not know what I was doing. I don't
know how I could tell you, now as the docents
check their watches and prepare to shut this down,
how I thought I could see you and take you and there
would be no harm, that we would talk together
in the orange morning, making breakfast.
I would close my eyes and lose myself, finally,
in the sounds of your words. I can't tell
you now, before this one of Ontario, 1830,
where a finger of gray from the left is a lake
and the landscape brown as any autumn.
It is late afternoon in the painting, and not a touch
of civilization except in the distances where chimneys
draw some smoke in the air to let us know
that in the beginning the end was already promised and sealed.

Note: This is the first in a short series of poems based on exhibits at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. They will receive and "IMA poems" label. Poems based on specific works will include artist and year in the title of the poem.

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