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Berthe Morisot, In the Cornfield at Gennevilliers

1895, Musée d’Orsay, Paris


This is not the painting

that museum-goers stand before, soaking up

the red of a woman’s hat, or the crimson poppies

dotting verdant fields.

Not umbrellas sprouting on a canvas

like strange mushrooms and a Paris street

silvered with rain.


Not the blue tutus of ballerinas,

the bridges smudged across bottomless rivers,

or gardens frothing with shrubs.

Not haystacks or cathedrals brushed by dawn,

flamed by noon, purpled by twilight.

This is a painting we’d pass by.


Here, a horizontal block of faded ochre

anchors a solitary figure resembling a scarecrow.

He stands in the foreground’s patch of muddy turf.

Behind him, across the field, houses and farms

scatter like blackbirds, and a smokestack pokes

a nondescript sky. The man himself is nondescript,


having stepped towards us with the calm deliberation

of someone who has a destination in mind.

He shoulders a rucksack of sorts, and has remembered

his hat. His two pinpoint eyes stare out

of a nearly faceless visage, as though the journey

to find himself is as important as where


he will lay his head at sunset. Over all, the sky

hovers like a nameless god, a swatch of yellow-gray

holding the lone human in its gaze,

neither asking a question nor telling the truth,

following the day tripper

with its all-seeing, cycloptic eye.

Donna Pucciani is a Chicago based writer. She has published poetry internationally in Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, Agenda, Gradiva and other journals. Her seventh and latest book of poetry is Edges.

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