after John Sloan’s “The Picnic Grounds”
When asked, the painter said it was a device
to enable visitors to stroll about at night.
His picnickers flirt—three women circling a man—
their white stockings mimic the striped trees.
Lime in the whitewash choked the bugs,
halted their march upward to the delicate leaves
the way you’d splash your cottage walls,
confuse the critters aiming for your thatch.
When we were children in Arizona we puzzled
why the citrus groves were cloaked in white.
Reflects the sun, we were told, retards the growth,
late frost otherwise nips the unattended buds.
Dafne shrieked, ran pell mell away from lust
as her shrewd guardians transformed her into a tree.
Apollo, unable to snatch her in time, rested against
the laurel trunk, a white heat still reflected there.
The Picnic Grounds, John French Sloan, 60,96 x 91,44 cm
Gallery: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA