Columbus Day at the Met

Holiday Monday but early still: footsteps echo
on marble in quiet sculpture halls. Morning
commuters have more space on the trains but the city
still whirs. In the European Painting wing a small group swirls
from Monet to Matisse: Japanese tourists, Continental treasures.
A vacation they won't forget: each camera's click, a promise.

I'm looking at a painting of summer's end, a promise
of autumn harvests as the heat fades like the echo
of a child's voice in a cave under the cliffs, where treasures
hide: starfish, and pebbles that glint in the morning
sunlight. I'm imagining the minnows, their familiar swirls
and darts in the shallow water, oceans away from this city.

Think of the stillness: no city
clamoring, just fields, the promise
of peace. All these lazy swirls
of blue on the canvas, they echo
the motion of wings in the morning,
beaks clutching earthworms like treasures.

Does a painter care for a place as a child treasures
summer days, or a mayor his city?
(To fully inhabit the sunlight of morning,
the sky as it darkens with the promise
of twilight.) Did the birdcalls echo
in his mind as Van Gogh painted these swirls?

In Starry Night the swirls
have turned cliche, but here, they're treasures,
a field of cypresses and wheat, the echo
of color, green resounding against yellow, against blue. Height like city
buildings, without the glint. I promise
myself I'll remember this painting, this morning.

Museum guards take breaks to smoke: morning
cigarettes, smoke rising in easy swirls
like breath in winter. This building's promise
of art, of brooches, armor, secret corners, hidden treasures
is quiet and solid, not like this city
of tourists and bustle. Here, footsteps echo.

These cypresses in the morning, themselves treasures
(just small swirls of paint transported to this city)
promise bounty and space, so real I hear the wind's echo.

Wheat Field with Cypresses, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
November 2004