Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sage Daughters of the Muses at the Arnot Art Museum

Heather Turnbull '11 and Jan Kather were invited to write a poem about a painting in the Arnot Art Museum's Male Order: Four Centuries of the Masculine Image exhibition. Pictured here is Heather who chose to write about Erskine Nicol's painting titled "Under a Cloud."

To be In debt and Indebted
by Heather Turnbull

This man, he is hungry
he wants but has little to eat or
he has little to eat so he wants.
Look, look here
he slovenly brushes his greasy hand off on his trousers
and stretches it across the table;
he’s reticent but his calloused hand
is not. They know much about the mill
but he, his mind that is, knows little.
A conversation with this man is much
like talking to one of his machines:
terse and lacking depth.
He’s in debt.
He owes salesmen, doctors, friends,
his wife, unborn child, and that man.

That man is also hungry
but has enough to eat.
He collects debts, guilt, contrition, coins, and confidences
and receives invites to balls and dinner parties.
Once the last drop of wine dissipates
so does he.
Nonetheless, he reaches for the calloused hand
revealing his own calluses:
the rejections, lies, half courages, and feigned smiles.
That man, well, he’s indebted to
the man who made him a businessman
he said it was his little favor, so
it stopped him from becoming this man
but, perhaps, made him no man.

We watch them exchange civilities—
the handshake, how do you dos, sirs,
misters, stiff postures, congratulations and condolences.
It doesn't matter.
We know he won’t be pardoned.
To forgive this man’s debt
that man would have to forgive his own.

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