Recognition

Poem by Rachel Hadas

To see with fresh perspective, rent a room.
Pisarro did, in Paris, in old age,
painting his city from successive views.
 
Luminous late scenes—broad boulevards,
tree tops, river—fill the biggest room,
the last before one exits the museum.
 
Almost at the door, I see a man
I recognize, though I forget his name.
Of course: I saw him at the funeral.
 
The way one does in crowded rooms, I smile,
he smiles, the two of us are ferried back
to that frigid February noon:
 
blue sky, white church, the lover’s beet-red face.
Here is the gift shop: poster, coasters, cards
hungrily snapped up. We wave goodbye,
 
and only then his name comes back to me.
Why has this press of gazers, why have we
come to absorb the visions the painter
 
late in life sought out if not in quest
of recognition? First to pay attention
and then to know just what it is we saw.
 

American Arts Quarterly, Fall 2007, Volume 24, Number 4