After Lady with a Parasol
(a painting by Vito d’Ancona)
A parasol sewn of gooseflesh
and decapitation. An article
about some explosion in space.
These are what our grandmothers
have carried, coughing pixie dust
and flea market lipstick. Pink
dresses, brown topcoats, it’s so easy
to blot history with a stab
of white paint. That fence, Grandma,
in the distance, is not a fence
or a railroad track flipped
on its edge, but the ribs of your niece’s
chinchilla—the one you will never
get to make a hat of. Huddle against
my great-aunts and great-uncles
in cargo cars dressed with hay. Hard,
this will be the last easiest breath
you will take. Ask Mars. He knows
all about the gas, the quick headline.
In parasol is the illusion that mumbles,
No skin cancer. Not a word, though,
about the lung. Under this cover
of canvas, simple grass can be abstract
and the trains ride sideways. Not a word,
though, about all things outer.
Where is your head? Where
are our heads? We, who always thought
chamber was a good word. That paint
can be a pearl is obvious. That rain
is harmless, less so.
Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of Barolo (forthcoming from The University of Nebraska Press), Sagittarius Agitprop (Black Lawrence Press), and the chapbooks Four Hours to Mpumalanga (Pudding House Publications) and Aardvark (West Town Press). Recent work appears in The New Republic, FIELD, Epoch, The Best Food Writing 2006, The Best Travel Writing 2008, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in Illinois and teaches English and creative writing at Grand Valley State University. (11/2009)