We Pine For We Know Not What*
On Seeing George Ault’s Hudson Street

George C. Ault, Hudson Street, 1932. Oil on linen, 24 3/16 x 20 inches. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase 33.40. Photography by Jerry L. Thompson.

City of swamps, city of sails, where is
the sheer music of the river lapping?
What life is in this picture?  No daisy
in the crack of sidewalk, no breeze blowing
paper in the street.  No breeze.  A car waits
at the curb, windows dark, one tire flat.
Time stops. Clouds hang.
No one sits on the stools in the diner.
Are there any people anywhere?
Are they all in Yankee Stadium for the World Series?
How bright and blue that background sky.
How strangely cast the shadowed light.
How small and white the little hacienda,
out of place and out of luck.
Precision has its price.
Dreams are stories told at night,
illusions painted inside a box.
Whose heart wouldn’t break on learning
the Great Wall isn’t visible from the moon?

Alice D’Alessio, Ronnie Hess, Jackie Langetieg, Kathy Miner, Mary C. Rowin, and Sandy Stark

* From an art review of The Whitney Museum of Arts’s exhibition,
Real/Surreal, by Ken Johnson, The New York Times, 2011