Man Catches Baby
A dozen women surround me on the museum steps,
laughing and calling to each other in a language
I can’t understand, and then one of them tosses me
a baby. I’d been looking at Pissarro’s Hoar Frost,
which baffled critics with its depiction of the shadows
of trees that are themselves absent from the canvas,
their bafflement based on their assumption that
the shadows are somehow less real than the trees.
But what is real? When I was a student, my roommate
Dennis took me out drinking till dawn on my birthday,
and as we walked toward our apartment, we saw
the guy from the bakery leave a box of pies
in front of a diner. Dennis picked up a cherry pie
and said, Look, and when I looked, he pushed it
into my face, then peeled a strip of crust off
my forehead and ate it, and we sat on the curb
and finished that pie and another to boot.
The next morning, the doorbell rang, and there
stood two men in black suits. One of them
showed me a card that said FBI on it,
and I thought, all this for a couple of pies?
But they were looking for someone else.
What is a shadow? Nothing, you say. A lack of light.
But what if the darkness came first and light interrupted it?
Pissarro’s critics were less than thrilled: Jules Castagnary
saw the absence of the trees as a “grave error,”
and Louis Leroy sneered that the picture consisted
of “palette-scrapings placed uniformly on a dirty canvas ...
neither head nor tail, top nor bottom, front nor back.”
Louis Leroy was overthinking it, wasn’t he? You have
to see what you’re looking at. When I caught the baby,
the women moved in close, and one put her hand
inside my jacket, but I figured even a bad mother
wouldn’t drop her own child, so, yeah, I tossed it back.about the author