February 12, 2007

GWEN JOHN ISN’T SITTING

Literate.
A literate woman with an enquiring mind
is that what this painting says
the gaze falling to a winged book
at her breast?

A drawn curtain anchored by a closed book
invites the light she needs

on to the table where a pen lies in wait.

She steadies herself on a glowing white cushion
in a wicker chair: willow
woven again and again by paint.

Or is Gwen saying something about the complexities
of this chair she carries from canvas to canvas?
Its vacancy groaning for missed confinements
or have her chair-days come early
or were they always with her?

Nothing so pretentious maybe;
skindeep, paintings don’t talk
they just look, like us
and the book might not be literature;
it could be maps (what interior next?)
a diary (oh those important dates),
or someone else’s disturbing secrets
(there is a slight ‘uh’ about the lady’s face),
hints on household etiquette, recipes, memoranda.

I’d rather it wasn’t poetry: too inward looking altogether
but of course there’s no reason
why it shouldn’t be a book of reproductions like this.

                                           (‘A Lady Sitting’ by Gwen John)

—Mary Maher

Posted by dwaber at February 12, 2007 12:27 PM