BLIND DATE, PHILLIPS COLLECTION LUNCHEON OF THE BOATING PARTY (1880-81)

She is frightened. Surely,
something has happened. She has just come from somewhere
where something
has happened. Hands at her face,
holding her spinning head.

She is flushed,
pinch-browed, squinting hard out onto the water. She is
not alone: there are men

mere inches from her mouth, simultaneously shushing
and asking what has happened, shush, what has happened,

an arm around her waist, shhh, they don’t want answers,

they want an arm
around her waist, their beards by her hot mouth, and
yes, she is stammering,
but shhh, she
will not be for long,
this will blow over,
nothing has happened,
shhh, shhh, Jeanne, shhh

One hundred thirty-five years later it
has not blown over,

the men are shushing still,
Jeanne, she is still frightened, something has happened, but
the museum guide will say the men “seem to be flirting”;

the museum guide
will not say
what Jeanne is doing,
or where she was before, or even that

something has happened

and when I, pinch-browed,
standing before the painting, spot her for the first time, I say
something has happened,
she is upset, and the man
mere inches from my mouth
turns from my pointing
and says,
Look at that adorable dog 

Kate Horowitz

Kate Horowitz is a poet, essayist, and science writer in Washington, D.C. Her work has been published widely, most recently in Bourgeon and in Quail Bell Magazine. She blogs at thingswrittendown.com and tweets @delight_monger. She did not suggest a second date.

Contributions by Kate Horowitz