The Docent

In Constable’s great picture Flailing Turnip-heads, East Bergholt,
the big trees stand and watch, they stand and watch in a line that runs
from left to right, near to far, bright green and dark, leaf and pine,
fragrant, branching over the pairs of men and boys bending over
the brown ground. The two boys at the left make tables of their backs,
jacket of white, jacket of blue, pushing? pulling? we do not know
but the docent is making demands of us, she is prodding us to tell her
what they are doing. We may not read the label, she says, we cannot
see the label, she has placed herself in front of it, we do not know the title
of the painting, we will not learn of turnips, of flailing, of East Bergholt.
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