Poem: “Watching the Canvas at the Rijksmuseum”

Meingast travelled to Amsterdam in 1885 to go to the Rijksmuseum, which had just moved into its new building (that “disorienting hodgepodge of Gothic and Renaissance elements”). No one is sure which canvas he was “watching.”

A triptych/ three sitting or leaning before an aqua green, faintly mottled curtain/without creases/ a painterly imposition on reality, like the symmetry of their limbs/ all of them posed without seeming to themselves to be posed for a spectator beyond the frame (for them there is just more green curtain, or latticed glass maybe)/One of them is especially keen to sit and talk./Crocked toes demurely tucked behind below/ and another counts her fingers and toes in different patterns but without a twitch./And one is not real, a plaster filler for compositional  ballast and serene poise for the antsy./ Not like a statue inspires/ but the living next of kin—proxy service. And one of them imagines the final product, but doesn’t imagine anyone looking/ or thinks/if they do look they will miss the whole point/ which is the table beside them spread with feathered things, dead, plus goblets too fussy to touch/ a tableau vivendi.


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