If only we had known that when Manet
Began to paint Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe,
An idyll of soft light, breeze, shaded grass,
The wind hadn’t breathed for three and a half days,
And the Seine River reeked, a dung-clogged barn.
If only we had known, as we drove through back roads
Bordering farms, watching glare make fence posts
Sweat and blacktop blister like peasants’ feet,
Then we’d have kept the romance in the car—
The Pinot Noir, the Brie, the long-stemmed crystal.
Beyond barbed wire, the real thing:
Puddles of tar-black mud and mounds of brush,
The landscape of the long-married, who know,
As Manet knew, that fields like this are studios,
Messy beds, where art ends, and life begins.
–Matthew Brennan (Vigo County)
This poem previously appeared in Poetry Ireland.
Matthew Brennan lives in Terre Haute and teaches at Indiana State University. His most recent books are The House with the Mansard Roof, a collection of poems (Backwaters Press, 2009), The Light of Common Day, a chapbook (Finishing Line Press,2011), and Dana Gioia, a critical introduction (Story Line Press, 2012). In 2008 he published a verse narrative, The Sea-Crossing of Saint Brendan (Birch Brook Press).
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). This is our last poem of the month!