Dialogue in Green
in memoriam, Will Barnet (1911-2012)
I bought her with an honorarium –
the girl-woman whose dark hair was like mine,
back toward me on a Turkish rug,
and the girl who posed was his daughter.
Her cat looked toward me, hunched along
the border, eyes two slits of light
in black fur, brown paneling behind it.
The girl's hair long, strands like black
cat's tails over the shoulders of her dull
green robe, one hand on a gray diamond
of the rug's design, on the same plane
as the cat's eyes, the same white, as if
the energy in her hand lighted the eyes and
the cat knew how they held each other in silence.
The secret they shared on the rug was mine –
burnt orange on green, dark and lighter red,
gray, black, white – all mine when I left the gallery.
Linen-matted, framed in wood I stained walnut,
it moved with me five times.
Sometime in those years I met him at River Gallery,
with his blonde wife. An exhibit of his serigraphs.
He looked like anyone, a man in his late sixties,
seventies perhaps, a lawyer, an accountant, while
around us on the walls dark-haired women
stared at cats, linoleum, coffee cups, out to sea,
and behind him a child looked gravely from a frame,
one hand over a top, the other resting lightly on a ball.
The dark verticals of trees echoed the gowns
of women gliding among them – the same woman, fragmented, now this way, now that, her hair still down,
or in a twist at the nape -- like part
of a waiting animal, stillness at her centre.
All his women were waiting – his blonde wife,
the beaming gallery owner, me in a tweed jacket
(it was Saturday, fall). He was bald, I remember,
pleasant, businesslike, with a good but not
aggressive sense of his market worth. I told him
I had an "artist's impression" of his Dialogue in Green.
"Good. They're hard to find now," he said.
I felt congratulated, almost smug, but lacking
something I must have looked for in that meeting
and remembered painfully when another green
entered our dialogue. Home from vacation after
a wet July and wetter August, I found the creeping
green of mildew under my picture's glass, green
spreading over its linen mat, fingering the brown
paneling, the rug, even the girl's dark hair.
Dollars helped restore it. Dollars I barely had.
But the picture's back now over my couch
on a rug that resembles his Turkish one,
and the girl – the dark-haired girl I must have
wanted to be that day –still stares silently at the cat.
Irene Willis is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent of which is Rehearsal (IPBooks, 2018) and editor of an anthology, Climate of Opinion: Sigmund Freud in Poetry (IPBooks, 2017). She has received many awards for her poems and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and once for a National Book Award. Currently, she is Poetry Editor of International Psychoanalysis (www.internationalpsychoanalysis.net) where she has a monthly column, Poetry Monday.
The Ekphrastic Review
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