Rainy day in the city;
of course I don’t have an umbrella.
The angry dark skies overhead say,
“This isn’t clearing up any time soon.”
So I and the rest of the umbrella-less tourists
reply, “It’s a good day to go to the Art Institute.”
Hundreds of tennis shoes and flip-flops squeak
on the highly polished wooden floors.
I don’t see as many people gathered around
the strange Renaissance portraits of tortured saints
and fat cherubs with the faces of middle-aged men
or the sumptuous still-lifes with grapes and apples
and pears artfully arranged around some dead fish.
Instead, the tourists and I stare into the depths of the Monets,
soothed by the hazy outlines of a French town in the distance
or a single haystack painted in all seasons and times of day,
gentle foggy pinks and gauzy blues and feathery purples,
perfect for a postcard or a dorm room wall,
forgetting that these paintings were once an outrage,
an effrontery, an insult to Art and Good Taste.
Anything new is radical and therefore offensive to someone,
a target for mockery until someone can look with new eyes
and open the rest of ours, usually long after the artist
has perished in poverty and despair and madness.