“Dutch Interior” by David Lehman

I think I first read Lehman’s poem in a grade-school literature textbook, where it was accompanied by this David Hockney work. All these years later, the two are still wed together in my brain. The light in the Hockney image is a little too bright for the feel of the poem, but the attitude of repose and contemplation seems perfectly in sync.

David Hockney, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, 1970-71,
the Tate Gallery, London

Dutch Interior
By David Lehman

He liked the late afternoon light as it dimmed
In the living room, and wouldn’t switch on
The electric lights until past eight o’clock.
His wife complained, called him cheerless, but
It wasn’t a case of melancholy; he just liked
The way things looked in air growing darker
So gradually and imperceptibly that it seemed
The very element in which we live. Every man
And woman deserves one true moment of greatness
And this was his, this Dutch interior, entered
And possessed, so tranquil and yet so busy
With details: the couple’s shed clothes scattered
On the backs of armchairs, the dog chasing a shoe,
The wide open window, the late afternoon light.

(via Tate Collection)


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