Bailey at the Museum


We are at the Williams College Museum of Art,
It is the Gerald Murphy Show with his seven paintings
And a large collection of memorabilia
That announces that Gerald and Sara Murphy are
The Celebrated Murphy's, friends of Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
Bailey at six breezes past Gerald Murphy's paintings as if on skates.
Enters the Egyptian gallery and announces, "This is Egyptian!"
And needs to be summoned back to look at the hieroglyphics.
She has seen them before and when I try to explain how old
These panels are, it is beyond boring.
At sixty-seven I am the oldest element in her universe,
Even my age is beyond her imagining.
When I tell her with my sixty-seven and her six we could make
Two thirty-six year olds she is intrigued, briefly.
She slows to look at a series of nudes and
Having taken a good look smiles conspiratorially and
Stage whispers to her mother, my daughter,
That they are ‘Inappropriate for someone her age.'
I have wandered off to look at the Murphy memorabilia
And discover the tragedy of their young son's death from TB.
There are drawings the children did and I am looking at these
When Bailey finds me.
These drawings, so like her own, slow her pace.
A brown horse, a white sailboat, a seascape, each neatly rendered
In familiar crayon colors modestly framed and glassed.
I do not tell her that the children who did these drawing are dead.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, the Murphy's, their children,
The Egyptians, probably every painter of every work of art
She has skated past today, is dead.
I joked once about dying and she cried.
She has an idea I could wait for her and we would marry.
She is my future but I will not be hers.
I could see now where this was going.
A few more turns around the museum and she
Will round the corner a confident young woman
Gaining speed, do her sweet thumbs up salute,
And skate out of our lives into her own.
And we will be her past
Standing, mouths agape,
More surprised than pleased
Full of wonder and loss.


Howard Kogan, Indian Summer, Square Circle Press, 2011.