nothing ever finished

Because nothing is ever finished
the painter would shuffle, bonnarding,
into galleries, museums, even the homes of his patrons,
with hidden palette and brush:
overscribble drapery and table with milk jug or fattened pear,
the clabbered, ripening color of second sight.

Though he knew with time the pentimenti rise—
half-visible, half brine-swept fish, their plunged shapes
pocking the mind—toward the end, only revision mattered:
to look again, more deeply, harder, clearer,
the one redemption granted us to ask.

This, we say, is what we meant to say. This. This.

—Jane Hirshfield, from “History as the Painter Bonnard,” The October Palace (Harper Perennial, 1994)

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