Linda Nemec Foster




Deserted Fairground, 1947

          after a painting by Ben Shahn

“a metaphor for the solitary aspect of human existence...”
                    — gallery notes

Two years after the war and three years before the middle
of the millennium, you painted this metaphor:
grass as mere stipple of lines, empty tents
as hollow extensions of themselves. Their perspective
awkward like the broken spokes of a discarded umbrella.
Could this be how you imagined the Sinai desert—
forty years of tents and the Jews still wandering
under a sky of dirty white and quiet mauve,
no end in sight. Where is the hand of God
in the emblems you imagine: uneven red, teal that doesn’t
quite know what to do with itself, hesitant green
wanting to regress back to yellow. Even the gold
of the frame is tired and despondent.

Try to imagine what the frame doesn’t hold:
an urban landscape with a misplaced state fair-
grounds and two lovers sweating into each other
in a nearby upper flat. In a week, the crack
house down the street will go up in flames.
In a month, two corpses will be carefully
arranged in the back alley. Next year,
a single bullet will find its way
into the lovers’ kitchen. No questions
asked, no answers given. God just outside
your field of vision, with a closed mouth.

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Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure, 1939

This landscape of elmwood and nothing else
flows from his hands and becomes female
a mother carefully arranging her life
the hole in her heart that he put there

flows from his hands and becomes female
imagines itself a mountain range, a valley
the hole in her heart that he put there
appears in every dream, knows its own shadow

imagines itself a mountain range, a valley
that can never be climbed, never filled
appears in every dream, knows its own shadow
this hole that echoes blank space and silence

can never be climbed, never filled
like loneliness or loss, the full contour of mourning
this hole that echoes blank space and silence
the woman reduced to mere shape and form

like loneliness or loss, the full contour of mourning
a mother carefully arranging her life
the woman reduced to mere shape and form
this landscape of elmwood and nothing else

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