The poetry reading is canceled

I’ve rushed across town for these moments of culture,
but Bidart is injured; there will be no reading.
I descend instead into subterranean quiet,
the American galleries, far from the crowded Impressionists,
to visit with Sargent and Eakins and Ms. Elizabeth
Sparhawk-Jones (1885-1968).
Her women shoeshopping in oils could be any women
today: feet and skirts lifted, cast-off slippers
littering the floor, unspoken judgments, a glance or a nod,
deciding the merits of this pump or that, only
their flowered hats and bustled dresses
betray the year, 1911. I gaze at Ms. Jones’s homage
to a new temple of commerce, the Department Store,
and remember another contemporary poet, Robert Pinsky,
who wrote of “shopping malls and prisons,” farms and
downtowns, the poet’s “figured wheel” rolling over the land,
painting his own picture of America.

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