A poem for Jean Sbarra Jones’s Dress in Water Series

Writer Nikita Deshpande saw Jean Sbarra Jones’s Dress in Water series and was inspired to write a poem. Enjoy!

Text of poem image: 
In America, I Met A Woman Who Paints Dresses Floating on Water by Nikita Deshpande
— After the paintings of Jean Sbarra Jones

When you come from a country 
of extremes—
furnace of heat and dust
or rain that paints whole towns 
in blurred watercolors
— when you come from a country like that 
you rarely take anything
for granted, 
not warmth, nor cold, 
never comfort. 

So believe me when I say 
I was baffled. 
Baffled at a country that serves four kinds of bread at breakfast
and two fruit pies at dinner,
baffled at soda fountains
and bottomless coffee jars,
at the size of sandwiches
and the amount of sugar in everything. 
But mostly baffled
at the sight of the dresses
floating on lakes, ponds and puddles,  
bereft of their wearers. 
Canvas after canvas
of satin and silk
soaked under the weight of the world,
it would seem. 
There’s a dress the color of emeralds
bumping against lilypads
in the marsh.
Another — blue — reflecting some gone heaven, 
some idyll stained from cornflowers and butterfly-pea, 
a sky we forfeited when paradise
was lost. 
And another, red, as anger, first blood,
as cherries picked just before an Indian monsoon, 
as the blush on the skins of overripe peaches.

And I’d stare and tilt my head
and smile,
say softly, “I don’t understand art”,
when knowing tugged 
at the hem of my being 
to ask 
the vital question
girls carry into the water
in India, America, everywhere:
Was this dress ripped off 
or shed?
Shall I feel joy? 
Or pain or fear or loss?
Or relief for a woman
who has pushed off 
from the riverbank with purpose
and wants to be swept up 
in a current, 
or something bigger than herself.

Check out more of Nikita Deshpande’s work on her website: https://www.nikitadeshpande.org

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