Mending the Net
A tree drops a shadow that stains the newspaper
a man is reading. It’s chilly where he sits
on a wooden pallet, his back to the picture plane.
I’m guessing he looks like my father reading
while he buttoned his shirt, book propped
on his dresser. The man in the painting
wears a dark suit, shoes, and a hat (as my
father did). The pallet he sits on and
the capstan next to him fix him in position.
Blue at the top of the water-soaked sky
fades to white. A smudge of smoke drifts
from a distant boat. The tree must be older
than the man. Its dead branches reach left
and right. Green deepens at the lower edge
of its canopy. I page through books,
a birdbook to see what birds might have
been there and a guide to trees to find one
that keeps on leafing though half of it is dead.
At the left the horizon rises a little, lifts
working men above the man reading.
There’s only one net, the net, but the men
who mend it are separate, meditative, not really
talking though I imagine they hear voices
from boats off shore and the clamorous
calls of willets and yellowlegs. Blurred shapes
of geese curve in every direction. Each time
I count I get a different total—Are there ten?
And look—girls I didn’t see at first, one
in a white blouse so bright it links her to
white shirts of men who arc toward each other.
The legs of the girl in the white blouse are
bare in the April chill but the other girl (is she
her sister?) wears bright red stockings that link her
to the sun-reddened faces of the workmen. My father
taught me every kind of work has equal dignity. Am I
the girl in red stockings and black boots looking up
at men working, my arm out, reaching? Or am I
my father, a person who can’t stop reading
beneath the outstretched arms of a dying tree.
Barbara Daniels’ book Rose Fever was published by WordTech Press and her chapbooks Black Sails, Quinn & Marie, and Moon Kitchen by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and many other journals. She received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
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