Patrick Lodge

THE STONE PICKERS (A conversation with Edward Clausen's, The Stone Pickers, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

If you were a stone picker,
that look of resigned surprise
at the pile of stones, defying gravity
to bubble up from the meadow around
your carefully scuffed boots,
would become you.
As it is that pail (water? milk?) ,
that artfully propped basket
(the almost gingham cloth
draped studio-careless across it) ,
that washed-out high buttoned
sexless dress, world-weary
incline of shoulder
are, no less than you, mere artifice.
Though, Polly (may I call you that?)
I may be too flinty with you.
Nursemaid, haymaker,
shepherdess, village girl -
you worked in fields, stood at gates
offered up head, shoulders, body
to the filleting and resolving gaze -
whatever the master ordered up,
you would become.
No less than the painter though,
I can fabricate a narrative of you;
it would speak of subversion.
How that whippet-tense body
would clamp, obdurate
at the raising of the brush.
How you fingered that
swaddle-tight, hessian apron-
almost empire line under your breasts -
as if it was the swirl of a ball gown
and you were celebrating
a full dance card.

You understood well
that woman/servant ju jitsu
which rendered flexible
the painter's hold on you.

Submitted: Friday, July 18, 2014

Topic of this poem: women

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

written after viewing the painting. Polly was Clausen's servant who often posed for him in various guises.

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