“There is always colour, it has yet to become light.” Pierre Bonnard
He liked white tables, their surfaces flat and square.
Objects of daily life moved into the painting randomly
like cats, choosing their own places.
Each cup or sugar bowl or mustard-coloured pitcher
with a line of green clovers around the lip
settled into the canvas as if it had forgotten
what it was, remembering only now the part of itself
that conversed with light, vibrating and humming
energies of ochre, blue, white, orange.
Around the room any available frame became willingly
a painting within a painting – window, door, mirror,
the yellow panel of a tablecloth on which a platter,
regally white and glowing, sat.
In these paintings his Marthe stood at the edge,
blending into a chair or partially hidden by a Japanese screen, or
behind a table quietly spooning food into a dish
for the small brown dachshund.
Earlier, there had been Marthe at her bath, violet and soft,
but in later years he began painting her bristling with hot colours
as she bent, in her quiet way, over a breakfast bowl.
The blue electric flowers from the wallpaper
reflected in her hair, the vibrations out of control.
When she was gone, the paintings grew furious,
steeped in wild reds. Windows became plunging vertical lines
and table legs refused perspective. The days
were hot colors, the thick lonely pleasure of viridian,
lemon cadmium, Venetian red, where tabletops
could not be contained except by their colour.
The wallpaper with its border of bold black stripes,
much like those on Marthe’s blouse
so long ago, constructed the only solid lines
in this part of his life, where wide platters might reflect
a hive of gold dashes at the window
behind the unused blue cup, the quiet white bowl.
Rebecca Ellis lives in southern Illinois. Her poems can be found in Bellevue Literary Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Naugatuck River Review, Sugar Mule, Sweet, Prairie Schooner, Natural Bridge, Adanna, RHINO, and Crab Creek Review. She is a Master Naturalist through the University of Illinois Extension Service, and has learned to be equally at home with mallards and mergansers and poems.
The Ekphrastic Review
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