Wildwood, Nebraska City
The sky opened like a Chinese hand fan glued
to ebony guards, the road that ran due east and west.
I wasn’t surveying the fan but was reviewed
on its silk like the clouds a painter’s hand expressed
so well the rags of white evoked the idea, cloud,
or like the trees whose jaunt downslope looked so unplanned,
they tricked the eye to assign depth to a flat land.
I’d planned a walk and so I left behind the sky,
its opened fan, and followed the short carriageway
to Wildwood. The Victorian house was no Versailles,
owning two stories and on each white flank two bays.
The door was locked. A guided tour cost three bucks.
Through the glass—papered walls, gilt mirror, carpeted stair,
a small town banker’s idea of comfort deluxe.
I strolled around the house to find the arts and crafts.
A man was digging in the ragged garden, tree
shaded in violet. The barn door tinkled a welcome.
Inside, a whitehaired woman, with a ring of keys
stringed to her right hip, smiled and asked where I was from.
I said New York, instead of Singapore, a draft
answer, and so arrived at I’d come to see.
A modern exhibit—photographs of the stars
and stripes seen through a cunning local eye. A rag
evoked a phantom limb or else a jagged scar.
Sky and trees were filtered through translucent flags.
Behind the flags the works of regional artists—
watercolors of robins and colonials, gags
of silk scarves, fruits etched into blackwood clumps of fists.
Back of the barn, decorous as a buttoned blouse,
hung a series of pastel “Architecture” prints—
Outhouse in Blue. A Winter Outhouse. Outhouse
with Goose. Outhouse with House Depicted Through A Squint.
I noticed, with a thrill, the artist’s name and crest:
Laurine Kimmel, who, together with her spouse,
bequeathed to artists her town home where I’m a guest.
I turned to go, thinking of Kimmel’s sense of humor
when painting shit. A man wanting a watering can
searched in the barn for one that would do well in summer.
I stepped outside and almost stepped on his black mutt.
The dog rose quickly, trained by nature and the man,
and sniffed my shin. It knew I don’t live in these parts.
I hurried down the eastern guardstick of the fan.