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Prairie Schooner 79.4 (2005) 34-35

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On Jasper Johns' Targets, and: On Two Paintings by Thomas Eakins

On Jasper Johns' Targets

The picket fence, the fintailed roadster,
the TV dinner, Leave it to Beaver –
these are the target's peripheries. Dead
center is us, vanishing point, our dread

exemplified by his busy brushwork. Where's
the half-shadowed lakes, the spread
of background trees, his critics complained,
where's the art? Black ash in the air

would be Johns' reply, if he weren't so cool.
He wore indifference like a well-made robe
the aging playboy sports besides the pool.
If the world is to end, better to be luscious

than panicked, playfully spinning the globe
on a finger, half-cocked grin of a fool. [End Page 34]

On Two Paintings by Thomas Eakins

Exactitude of tricep, extended, strained:
your rowers caught mid-motion. Hue of the skin,
late day's pale light on water – each minutia
gridded & plotted, no deviation, the pain

on the sculler's face is science. The same
patterns that made a body human, you claimed,
were found inside the clockworks of our nation:
money & law, thank God, were limbs of Darwin.

You praised your era, but that era loathed
your steadfast bluntness: young men unclothed,
diving into a pond, a finger reaching toward
a buttock – as if that hand could wield a knife

& slice away the aristocracy – Its scorn
made you retreat. Decline became your pose.

Joseph P. Wood's poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and Tampa Review.



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