On Visiting the Brooklyn Museum in Winter (1)

Eastman Johnson’s 1873 oil painting,
Not at Home,
depicts a shaded sumptuous interior
of a luxurious 19th Century home
but as the plaque points out,
climbing up the stairs
stage right on the paperboard
is a period woman
who seems, clearly,
at home.

Not to worry,
the plaque clarifies,
for "Not at Home"
is a historic term
for "Closed"
"Do Not Enter"
"Nothing to See Here."

The plaque
very informatively
explains that the woman depicted
is Mrs. Johnson herself
and she’s heading up
to the family’s private apartments.

Stage left of the painting
practically in darkness
shows a small baby carriage.
Perhaps Mrs. Johnson
is about to put her infant to bed.

It is something we could,
perhaps,
ask Mr. Eastman himself,
were he not either
a) working on the hushed painting in question;
b) already upstairs entertaining his wife in that 19th century way;
c) unwilling to discuss his work, insisting that it speak for itself;
d) dead for well over a hundred years.

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