Woman With Parasol

by Martin Willitts Jr.

(Based on Claude Monet’s painting, “Woman with Parasol”)
(The models for this painting were Camille Monet and Her Son Jean)

I. The artist

There is no hurry here.
She has been standing like this,
a parasol shading her from the sun
so her skin does not turn leathery
from standing still for so long, so long
her heart slows to nothingness, as time
is a breeze kissing her cheeks into red carnations.
She holds this pose while I gather my paints
as so many fingers. Her skirt moves like a fan.
Her body is held firm into a perfect shape
by a corset of herringbone, drawn tight as her breath.
I am about to capture her like this for eternity.
She can stand this way and never grow old.
She will hold this sunshade over her head,
her arms never tiring, the sun will never burn,
the blush on her cheeks will be fingerprints of paint
trying to keep everything in place, holding time
as if I could hold her hand and feel
the measure of her heart throbbing on her neck vein.
I could untie her bonnet, letting her hair go as a kite.
She holds that parasol as light plays on her face,
as I hold the light in my hand like fireflies.
I know more about light than I do about how to tell her
how much the light makes her face and changes it
like differences in autumn leaves. If I told her how I felt
she might cover her face with the parasol, embarrassed,
her white pearl gloves might shake with depredation,
her knees might buckle and faint
like a person too long in the sun. So I paint fluidly
and cast rays of colored light upon her face.
It is enough just to paint her like this,
to have her the way she is, and let her be admired
and adored by generations of men who will be enchanted
while all she does is hold this parasol on a summer day.

2. The model

Men stare at me. I am used to this.
They wonder where they have seen me before.
They open their mouths like parasols.
My son stares at me too, but he stares for a different reason.
He stares with the love of a child that still needs me
to hold his hand while crossing the street.
His eyes are small as my husband’s brush strokes.
He can stare at me all he wants.
I know he looks at me when he thinks I am dreaming.
He looks at the turn of my hand on the piano.
He watches as I pour a picture of water in the basin
and scrub my hands, turning the soap and water,
then drying them on a blue hand cloth.
He comments how my dimples match an orange’s.
He looks at his brushes and paints,
and his hands cannot stop painting on my skin.

I glance his way while he is not looking,
noticing how he murmurs like drying paint.
I love how he smells of turpentine.
I understand this smell means he has been painting me,
whether discussing the shimmer of light in my hair
with Renoir as they compare my skin to garden roses,
or as he stares at his own pipe smoke and sees me
as I draw up my stockings , or when his beard is dewy
and I touch it delicately like one of his paintings drying.
Ask me what you will of him
and I will open up like a parasol.

3. The child peering over the hill

I am about to come to the rise in the hill,
when I see them. Him with his brushes
and easel as his hand is quail flushed out.
Her posing, looking at him over her shoulder,
not moving any more than a blade of grass.
I hesitate, afraid to break the silence, the rhythm
of his hands like a conductor’s baton,
and her, the flutist ready to raise her instrument
to her pursed lips. I do not move. I am frozen.
I cannot even move back down the bluff
out of the picture, out of the silence, out
of something so important. I could see myself,
my surprise shielded under a straw hat,
the air curling my hair in its fingers.

The Hummingbird: March Street Press, 2008

Martin Willitts Jr's picture

Martin Willitts Jr was nominated for 5 Pushcart Awards and 2 Best Of The Net awards. He has print chapbooks "Falling In and Out of Love" (Pudding House Publications, 2005), “Lowering Nets of Light” (Pudding House Publications, 2007), The Garden of French Horns” (Pudding House Publications, 2008), “Baskets of Tomorrow” (Flutter Press, 2009), “The Girl Who Sang Forth Horses” (Pudding House Publications, 2010), “Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for Cezanne” (Finishing Line Press, 2010). He has online chapbooks "Farewell--the journey now begins" on (www.languageandculture.net, 2006), “News from the Front” (www.slowtrains.com, 2007), “Words & Paper” (www.threelightsgallery.com, 2008). He has two full length books "The Secret Language of the Universe" (March Street Press, 2006), and “The Hummingbird” (March Street Press, 2009). He has four new chapbooks: “True Simplicity” (Poets Wear Prada Press, 2011), “My Heart Is Seven Wild Swans Lifting” (Slow Trains, 2011), “Why Women Are A Ribbon Around A Bomb” (Last Automat, 2011), and “Art Is Always an Impression of What an Artist Sees” (Muse Café, 2011).

Last updated August 15, 2011