April sunshine has given me the courage to take on the challenge of writing Ekphrastic poems. I have never attempted to translate the emotion from paintings, drawings, sculptures, or other visual works of art into words. The challenge will require me to dig deep to tap into the passions such works of art create inside a person. Most of what I write will be speculative. There will be times when I will place myself into the mind of the artist. Still other times, I will express the emotions I experience gazing at the work of art. If I get creative, I might even tell the story from an element within the artwork. This Ekphrastic poem is based on a painting by Edgar Degas entitled A Cotton Office in New Orleans. The painting was done shortly after the Civil War during Reconstruction. As you can see, business went on as usual.
A Cotton Office in New Orleans
We businessmen of the cotton exchange,
Work hard to preserve the status quo.
When slavery ended we had to rearrange.
Now we have sharecroppers don’t you know.
Cotton might not still be king
But it’s still a worthy offering
A nice way to make a living
As long as the labor costs are low.
The trick is for the milk-white plant to grow
Then you get the laborers out into the field
Then they bring us the snowy yield
And we busy ourselves with the Times Picayune
Or lean against walls and sing a merry tune
Waiting for a healthy return on our investment
Our wealth is a pretty good testament
That cotton can still be king
Because we managed to arrange the game
When the more things change
We find a way to keep things the same.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
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