Sandra McPherson

Study: Old Watercolor and Joe
November 11, 2012 McPherson Sandra

Study: Old Watercolor and Joe


I bought an old watercolor in a primitives shop and brought it home to my in-laws’ on summer vacation.


In it Mrs. Pickering sits on the bank of the Spokane River and fishes with a string.  She uses both hands for the string, and each hand performs a different task.  The left thumb is wrapped by the line.  The right fingers pinch and guide.  Her line’s wavy.  The jaws set are Mrs. Pickering’s, not yet the white-meated cool biters’ beneath the bottom of the sky.


As I watch people, I make inaccurate guesses about character.  Fond of the cranky, saint-worshipping Old Man, for instance, I witness him fling a hard right to the jaw of his son, who journeyed long to visit him.  Mrs. Pickering fishes without so much as a pole for weapon.  She’s composed, patient.  Water music winds around the concourse of reeds and rock.  She is absorbed, as the line is by the stream — she is connected.


She doesn’t distance the line.  Instead of reeling, she feeds out and feels.


Sober, over a zinnia centerpiece, at breakfast, the Old Man upbraids, homegrown lemon cucumbers on the table, honey in a pot.  The whole family, around poached eggs and home-canned relish served on colored plates, leaps up to hold him back.


If there were some way I could have gauged him better . . . Can I suppose principle by fists from now on?  One fist or two?


I love him to death, but two-fisted Mrs. Pickering is the better to augur love’s tranquility, to summon philosophy and cool, and to balance thoughtfulness and provender.


Two fists think to provide.

Sandra McPherson’s 21st book, Quicksilver, Cougars, and Quartz, is forthcoming in 2018 from Salmon Poetry Press. She is retired from teaching 23 years at the University of California at Davis and 4 years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Among her earlier collections, 5 were published by by Ecco, 3 by Wesleyan, and 2 by Illinois.