The church was full. The lady, after all,
had been somebody: mother, even wife,
grandparent, trustee, loyal friend—a wall
of strength, of doing right. They praised her life,
and now at this gray noon the mourners file
into a grand uptown apartment. Lunch
is waiting in the dining room; meanwhile,
accepting Bloody Marys, cousins bunch
before a painting taller than a child
and twice as long.
A handshake, an embrace,
acknowledge kinship; then the rambling, mild
chitchat of families grown too tired to face
the implications of their choices: loss
evading measure, failure, pain, deceit,
betrayal, loves aborted—lives—the dross
of effort unavailing. When they meet
their masks are up, they lose themselves in things—
as, here, a spacious South Fork autumn scene.
The quiet foreground, said the painter, brings
the viewer in. Too strong a red or green
would stop you. Where the lines converge, a haze
of salt air hangs above the dunes. The pale
gray pearly mist absorbs the cousins’ gaze.
“We were,” the host explains, “his first big sale.”
For one among them, what this hour yields
at last that’s straight and true (to her the rest
seems not) are rows of winter wheat in fields
out there in Wainscott Hollow looking west.
February 28, 2002