Poor Madame X – her indolence all exposed:

one never does a lick of work

in a little black dress with jeweled straps like this


Poor Madame Pierre Gatreau

her soul’s bare shoulders exposed –

her identity speedily reviled by haute society.


Poor John Singer Sargent disparaged by Paris’s best –

his second version made matters worse —

where there was two now only a single shoulder strap.


NOTE: “Hand-grenade of sexuality” is Jonathan Jones phrase from his article in the Guardian UK about the painting:

DOUBLE DARE (hour 21, PM 2017)

Sing me a song of eternal sunshine

pocket full of broken stones


tall as the sky, deep as the ocean


Sing me a song of deepest night

pocketful of dead stars


vast as the last galaxy, deep as a wormhole


Sing me a song of a billion euros

bottomless pocket full of used bills


tall as the world bank, deep as a zero


DROUGHT (hour 20, PM 2017)

No rain in nearly two months.

The sunshine is glorious, but with no access

to an outdoor spigot or hose, I struggle

to water the garden’s plants.


The balcony is long as the house, my mistress’s plants plentiful.


She’s turned her back.

Again. Walked away;

we’re no longer speaking.

The watering can almost empty.


The balcony is long as the house, my mistress’s plants plentiful.


Berthe Morisot, Young Woman Watering a Shrub, 1876 (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond)

STASIS: FIVE YEARS ON (Hour 19, PM 2017)

The laws of gravity don’t hold here –feet float

unless tethered – to a box, a table, a window frame.

I am stretched out, thinned by the space’s curve,


the loss of earth’s reliable time. Tick, tock,

there is nothing to be done, held

as we are in individual bodies, capsules


molded to our fragile skin, then sealed

as if ticking bombs, unpredictable,

easily detonated, then dispersed into darkness.


I read the remaining book, again and again,

seeking clues – anything that might explain

what we think we are supposed to be doing.


Come in, come in.

Roger. Over and out.

Is anyone listening outside myself?


Vowels and consonants –

unfamiliar sounds.

TABLE FOR TWO (hour 18, 2017)

Let me sit awhile, here, on your porch.

Let me relax, and recall what it’s like to be still

and present, as if there were no past


to shuffle around like so many doctored photos

of meals I once ate, hotels I once slept in,

friends and exes, and others I once loved.


Let me rest here awhile, quietly at home

amongst the sleeping teacups & saucers for two –

as if that were my childhood’s doll and my dearest


whose chair has just now been abandoned for places unknown.

Let me pour out memory’s delicate brew, savor the downhill view.

Let me imagine this is a memory I once recalled.


Berthe Morisot, Doll on a Porch, 1884 private collection, Portland

— viewed in Women Impressionists

CLIMBING (Hour 17, PM 2017)

    “Despite her [Marie Bracquemond] gifts, despite her striving, despite  her enthusiasm, the day came when with an obscure feeling of grief, she had to confess herself beaten.”

    — Jean-Paul Bouillon, “Marie Bracquemond: The Lady with the Parasol” (Women Impressionists, p. 242).


Never met a ladder I liked –

not the trap door pull-down device

to my childhood attic, nor the sketchy plywood versions

in construction sites where my brothers hid

and snickered as we circled below, our bikes

tied outside like royal steeds.


But that never stopped me

hauling myself up, hand over hand, until

I reached the upper limits, and could rest

hands on hips, as if lord

of all I surveyed below.


Blame it on grandma who climbed

a ladder at 82 to prune her trees,

and fell, breaking her back in two places

then recovering in one sweet week, as if

such a fall only required dusting oneself off,

then retying your apron strings.


Never met a ladder that made me sad

until I saw Woman on a Stepladder

why did you stop drawing?


—-response to Marie Bracquemond Woman on a Stepladder, 1882 (private collection; printed in Women Impressionists p. 243)

LIGHTS OUT (hour 16; golden shovel prompt from hour 8)

Inspired by a line from Weldon Kees’s “Five Villanelles” —

“We must remain until the roof falls in.”


The darkness invites us to stretch and dawdle, and we

do, pouring more wine, telling more tales. We must

be tired, but we stretch, pretend otherwise, remain

hunched beside our ebbing campfire, until

at last our yawns can’t be denied, or the

fatigue seeping into muscles. No roof

overhead; no matter, we’re all in.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (Hour 15, another prose poem, PM 2017)

Dear Mary: I want to come back to your painting Little Girl in a Blue Armchair. To talk to you about Edgar. Rumor had it for a long while – perhaps even fifty years – you’d be amazed at how stubborn Parisian gossip is – that you were his student. You, a woman – and him, the big shot male artist introducing you to the basics of Impressionism. As if you needed instructing or help in applying color. How wrong-headed!

We both know you were already established – own galleries /agents/sales – when you met Edgar. Equals. Artistic kin. And yet, I’m ashamed and embarrassed to read in your letter to your dealer, that dear Edgar not only found this painting “good” but that he even “advised me on the background, he even worked on the background.

I’ve since heard that Manet once took it upon himself to rework much of one of your friend Berthe’s paintings.

But who am I to judge what Edgar and you did. Can’t equals be collaborators?

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844 – 1926 ), Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art

NIGHT SONGS (Hour 14, PM 2017)

Dusk percolates into darkness.

Early spring in the Northwest, the ground a sodden mess, but this evening the rain has ceased. Stifled by too many hours inside, under lamps, I switch off the radio which has been keeping me company, my elbows stiff from bending over papers I’m grading.

Stretch and listen. Silence does not greet me. I am assaulted by frogs, the clang and bong of their night longing loud enough to hear with the windows closed.

I know you may not believe me.

Inspired by their desire, I turn aside, open jars of tomatoes. Crush garlic, chop basil. Put a large pan on to boil. We will eat well tonight.


EXPRESSIVE (hour 13, 2017)


  “Red narrates, red highlights, red beautifies brunettes but doesn’t blemish blondes, red embellishes, red loved, and red kills too – but it is not the color of mourning.”

            – Marie-Caroline Sainsaulieu, “Expressive Red”

What if the world turned red? Red, red, and red, with bits of white, orange and black. As if there were to be no mourning anymore. No lost words, no missed affection, no ungentle touching. Only relaxation, and the quiet smoothing of hair.

Take Degas’s “Combing the Hair,” for instance. No blue eyes, blue skies, blue bells. No broken bodies lying in green fields, no dead grasses on sandy shores. No snarled black tresses, no blonde roots showing. Only the comb’s whispers, your arm and hand caressing my hair.


Edgar Degas, Combing the Hair (La Coiffure), The National Gallery (Britain)