Two Old Ladies at the Met Staring at a Mural

Two Old Ladies at the Met Staring at a Mural

After Romare Bearden’s The Block (1971), October 29, 2011

 This is art?

       You don’t think so?

I’m asking you.

       This is what the Met calls art.

Is it a painting?

         I think it’s a collage. Magazine clippings and—

The building dressed as neon
paint&lights. The shout of the liquor store
marquee sings jazz to the kids without
parents smashing like atoms against the pavement.

It’s really colorful.

Yeah, but the kids are smaller than the mousetrap

Isn’t the tablecloth pretty?

and why is the mousetrap in color, but not the kids?

The green&white polka dots—

But that’s where they eat, why put a trap on the table?

the building’s lovely.



Glassless windows, rust for a mattress
and a table of splintered knots
all sit together in the room
where a mousetrap babysits the kids.

Where are the parents?

    There seems to be a mother and father on the corner.

They’re dressed very nicely. Maybe for church?

What kind of church wouldn’t allow children? Baptist?

I would never leave my children home alone, even on a Sunday.

The women on the corner are wrapped in white ermine,
and the men in freshly steamed & feathered hats.

Why are all the colored people so sad?

The sky is the color of a sky
interrupted by the shapes of clouds.

 I don’t think you should say colored.

The Empire scrapes the uptown sunset
as the black&tan jalopies panhandle the edge
where Lenox bends into 132nd

Why not? They are colored. You remarked on the colors—

     …of the buildings in the picture.

Not the people.

Why is what you said ok, but what I said isn’t?

*This poem is featured in August 2014’s The Acentos Review


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