Two women in a boat on a summer’s day—patches of light,
blue and white, an umbrella across the knees, the waning
century, before the death machines—sitting upright
against the backdrop of water and ducks.
Eight years before Monet—she is a painter determined.
Her mother diminishes her work as ordinary,
hoping she will heed the calling of her sex.
The woman in profile, dressed in blue, hand on the rail—
What is it to wish for something more, the fragile nature
of the world where merely to paint well can threaten
the authority of God. To know one’s place in the order
of things, the vicar says—the preacher dressed in a dark suit
holding a bible leather bound. The mother worries her child—
but the artist wants something not allotted her.
A hundred years—more. The worth of a soul measured
at auction where the clients drink dark coffee
in demi-cups and talk about cream and Drambuie—or luminous
gleams, free from the necessity of precision and detail.
She paints in a world before the machine gun rendered
the romantic poet and the epic warrior equally irrelevant,
before the automobile, before penicillin, before fiber optics.
Before digital filters.