- Woman with a Mango
Painting by Paul Gauguin, Baltimore Museum of Art
Turn. Balance. Hinge. Gazing beyond us back over her shoulder, she’s torqued as if to hurl the ruddy fruit cupped in her right hand.
White flowers on dark fabric bunched behind her; white lace collar on her purple dress; three small white flowers in her hair; white cloudlet in a corner
of backlit golden sky: these trace an arc across the world of fabric, flesh, and fruit, away from what belongs to earth and changes. What cannot change can never be used up.
This rosy mango never to be sliced is passed on nonetheless, neither as lunch nor still life. If it is a portrait, time arrested poses here,
warm in the hand and ready to be launched. But though we’re close enough to smell her hair and hear her long skirt swishing in the dust and sense the heft and ripeness of the fruit,
eternal and delicious and withheld, this mango’s manifestly not for us. Promise of what is full and what will follow. Turn. Balance. Hinge. [End Page 325]
RACHEL HADAS is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, essays, and translations. Her most recent poetry collection is Questions in the Vestibule (2016), and she is completing verse translations of Euripides’s two Iphigenia plays. Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark.