Occasionally I have my poetry students write a "flash poem," a poem drafted quickly on a topic I announce in class on the spur of the moment. Yesterday I took into class my print of James McNeill Whistler's "Arrangement in Gray and Black" and had them write about it. My own flash poem:
is locked in her son's frame. His dark paint
fleshes her out. Her porcelain hands
rest on a black smock's blur. Unblinking,
her gaze fades into the curtains.
She gives off nothing, wrapped in repose.
The bonnet on her severe head
covers a bunched cascade of hair
as muted as her pursed lips.
The geometry of mother and son
extends to infinity, to all the late suppers
and blighted nights. Pungent oils
have hardened on the canvas, brushes
abandoned. The painter has left her
to her own stark desires.