PUPPIES AND GOBLETS

inspired by Still Life with Three Puppies by Paul Gauguin, 1888

for Omar Willey, who provided the final quotation

Look at the waggly contour
of the puppies plunked
above dark blue goblets—
sentinels between an assortment of pears,
etcetera, all on a backdrop, off-white
and decorated in a floral motif.
Who knows if Gauguin hoped
to come across as if apprenticed
to a Japanese printmaker or as a jokester
enjoying a juxtaposition
of fragile drinking vessels with squirmy spaniels?

But Van Gogh did expose his interest to his friend.
See where it got them and us?
Their paintings waiting in silent galleries.
Their time of overlap in the 1880s pondered.
Our despair lifted for a few minutes
while we study on our desktops this photo
shared by MoMA. I am almost laughing
at the perfect depiction of the little dogs.
Bellies round. Tiny tails pointing up jauntily.
Hear them slurp at their water bowl, insatiable?

The silliness of placing the litter on a table
or the glasses on the floor is delicious—
this proximity fixed in oils, for eternity.
For safety’s sake the artist probably
went at each subject single-file, and tricks us
by having lain them in one frame
as if they were of the same instant,
but it “is about sequence: how one image
combines with another, how time passes …”