Gamine, head down, she looks up
and out, body subdued, it seems, shoulders
hunched, hands together in her lap.
She sits beside a well in the painting I bought,
and she looks out, but she doesn’t stare at me.
Instead, she half-smiles at a man, who wears
on his back a worn leather knapsack, and tied
on top, a folded easel, canvas umbrella,
the tools he needs to paint. I can’t see his face;
it’s hidden from all but her as he leans slightly
forward. In his hand, a canvas, blank, I imagine;
ready stamped on the back with the supplier’s name.
I spend hours staring at the scene and wondering
about the hand that made this fine painting.
Unfinished, the experts think, and so unsigned:
Not worth much. But this painter had a touch:
brushed feathers of light fall across
the shaded well; a mass of greens imply
a mossy stone trough where livestock drink.
Woman at the well. Does the painter, like Jesus,
offer the living water, life eternal?
Does my painting make that claim for art
instead of faith? A radical thought back then.
The painting tells me she belongs to this place,
but he’s a stranger, a student of plein air:
a hint of formality in their conversation.
She is listening; he leans forward.
I see now. The once-blank canvas, faceless
painter: He’s given us the moment that he asked,
May I paint you? This painting, then, her answer.
Sandy Solomon’s book, Pears, Lake, Sun, received the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, published simultaneously in the UK by Peterloo Poets. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including The New Yorker, Vox Populi, New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, Partisan Review, Threepenny Review, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Magazine, and others. Her poems have appeared in a number of anthologies including Women’s Work, Orpheus and Company: Contemporary Poems on Greek Mythology, and A Breathless Hush, The MCC Anthology of Cricket Verse. Several of her essays on poetry have appeared in Mentor and Muse. She is Writer in Residence and Associate Director of the Creative Writing Program at Vanderbilt University. She lives in Nashville and, several months of the year, in London.
The Ekphrastic Review
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