The Room and the View

Poem by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

after Bonnard’s
Dining Room on the Garden
(1934–35)

 
Light delivers a message these things absorb faithfully.
This nun of a white pitcher, monk-brown sugar bowl—
A tabletop cloisters—a V-shaped vase offers red prayers,
Paired compotes compare visions, two small bowls lean to
Meditate or beg. Each object making its vow of silence.
The window holds a garden scene, split like a diptych or
A Japanese screen, divided also by color: blue, green.
 
Nothing here beckons to me, no thing needs my attention.
Why then do I long to live here, to fall into the painting,
To follow the path my eyes blaze and allow the lush
Pigments to enwrap me like expensive scarves?
The woman hiding behind the flowers is not my mother.
She will not welcome me, or anyone. I may not be
Permitted to use a chair. Perhaps I am already there—
 
That ghost streak melting its gold into the wall.
There seems no other way out. There is scant air.
For many years I kept to a room I could not bear
To exit, the world beyond the window baffling, unreachable
As a star. The room is thick with bars, I see that now,
Camouflaged by décor, by window-frame, by fabric—
I can’t see how to get past all these verticals.
 
Must all rooms resemble this one, a show of comforts
That sets a snare? No, art is blessed illusion, and
This just a canvas square arranged to conjure dimension.
Such bright fruit will not give bite, nor milk-white pitcher sour.
It’s thrilling how close to transcendence the whole scene wavers
For this is the light of a mind, bold and incendiary.
The object in mind is oil. No room but color.

 

American Arts Quarterly, Spring 2009, Volume 26, Number 2