The Artisan’s Studio, Cedar Rapids, 1924
At this window bench Hattie would survey
the bustling alley behind First Ave.
Here’s the telephone niche – one shelf for her
to converse while reclining on the bench,
a higher shelf so he could chat standing
beside his easel, paintbrush in one hand,
smoldering fag in the other. Outside
the window, under the gable, a large
iron eye that once held block and tackle
used to haul bales up through the hayloft door.
The hissing steam heat, free from pipes beneath
the streets, and the radiator cover,
tin stamped by his devoted junior high
art students in a pattern of flowers –
calendulas – to which he would apply
paint and tinted glaze to give a bronze age.
And filling the floor gap where hay was once
tossed down to the manger for the horses,
a sunken bathtub so he could stand up-
right in the tiny room while showering.
And where he bumped out a wall to add light,
a window for afternoons and sunsets,
he built an array of compartments and
pigeonholes, and near the top, seven feet
off the floor, a small drawer, where he kept
vestigial echoes of his heart’s secret.
David Duer is currently a docent guide at the University of Iowa's Stanley Museum of Art and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, where he’s come to know the works he writes about intimately. His work has been published in Ascent, Exquisite Corpse, Milkweed Chronicle, North American Review, and Poetry, among others.
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