A Picture Does Not Contain Its Own Application

by Emily Wolahan

Lately, she’s Woman on a Porch, sitting with her arms  
on the arms of the chair, face in fleshy shadow,  
bands of color behind her, band of water, sand bar,  
bare sky. She’s a Diebenkorn, the way he paints  
women with no faces, slaps an angle to a chin  

that neither addresses the view nor the viewer, fogged  
for life. My mother in the morning,  
her iPad propped up, reviews headlines,  
arms set on the table either side of the device as lines  
in a parking lot help manage open areas. The car 

pulls in. We parked at the museum because we were both  
free on a Monday afternoon. “Embarrassingly free,”  
she says. Walk past Diebenkorn’s portraits to find  
View of Notre Dâme — the spare one from 1914  
where Matisse outlined the cathedral’s frame,  

sketched in spatial depth, then washed it all,  
the bridge, the Seine, a single undulating blue— 
apart from one green hedge and the hedge’s  
shadow, apart from the shadow of the towers, the cathedral  
pursued by blackness. His lines yawn open, white  

throbs in the background, unchained—the collision  
of lines, etiolate color, on a canvas rashly made,  
available only on loan. My mother chops carrots or  
stirs a broth or drinks her wine—blurs faceless  
in the way I now see things because of the ring light  
emits around them, the dust mark left by a vase removed.



Emily Wolahan is the author of the poetry collection Hinge (National Poetry Review Press, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in the Boston Review, the Georgia Review, Oversound, and other publications. Her prose can be found in Arts & Letters, Among Margins (Ricochet Editions, 2016), and The New Inquiry.  She holds an MFA from Columbia University and has received fellowships from the Headlands Center for the Arts and Vermont Studio Center and is a Poetry Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal.

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