Patricia Goodwin: Writer


Turner at the PEM

At first, she was concerned

about heart palpitations


her heavy bag

and the intense heat of the walk

along the well-meant pedestrian mall

there was an Avanti

parked inside

she should have realized then

things would be different

the pictures were wonderful, of course

painted at 15! a night storm on the ocean

a surging whirlpool

pulls her down

into an abyss of black water

cracked with white light


she follows a path of his context

among the other painters of his time

she doesn’t care!

except to marvel at the grandness, the absolute sheer size of the canvases and frames that made it across the Atlantic -

a wonder of negotiation with the sea and the Royal Museums!

Oh, a Whistler, oh, yes, he belongs here

soft and blue

as though she could brush blue powder off the surface

Ah, Whistler!

ships, architecture of ships

she sees vanilla skies


a hint of what’s to come,

that living, wet sunlight on the duomo, that mirrored stillness of the canal

that thin, white fog

crowding the gondolas

gondolas heavy with goods and people sinking into the canal waters!

too close!

her daughter, a painter also,

runs her little finger delicately along the air above the etchings

“See here, look closely at how he did that! That line to that softness of the clouds!”

her husband announces

wait till you see the last room!

oh, they saved the best for last

I need a smoke

ok, ok

but it was the second to last room

maybe that’s why

maybe she was unprepared

maybe tired and finally


finally not too hot or too hungry

just tired enough to float

and forget everything else

she began to tremble at the sketchbooks

she is standing in front of the watercolors

he painted later in life

when everyone said he was losing his eyesight

losing his sanity, losing, losing

someone has had the foresight to place a chair in front of each watercolor

as though people will stumble and need to steady themselves

as though people will need to sit

she is gazing into white

white on white

she sees a slight grey sail

does she?

she is pulled deeper

deeper in, deeper

she is erased completely by white

the space between woman and painting becomes white

soft, sweet, white, love comes out, to and from

she begins to weep at suddenly being filled with white

her tears swell with white

for consolation, she looks to her daughter standing near her in the watercolors

her daughter is weeping