Victorian Parlor

 As I walked past, I spied you through the door.

When you came here to visit, you saw my husband’s parlor, the place he keeps his trophies “to his worldliness.” There are, of course, his paintings of men – of cowboys, Presidents, Indians…even an African man. And his paintings of vast landscapes – wide open spaces – places where he is free to go...and does. I hope you noticed the ship and trains. He likes to look at them – they remind him of his adventures.

I assume the furniture was comfortable for you; it is all sized to him. Did it strike you that everything is covered in the colors he craves? Shiny gold; building brick red.

I would have preferred rose.

Oh, and did you see the Oriental vases? They never hold flowers. But when my husband and his friends play poker they use them as spittoons.

You didn’t see me in my husband’s parlor. Or – maybe – if you looked closely, you did. That one picture. The one of the woman feeding chickens. The woman stands there…feeding chickens. A man sits on the porch; a boy sits on the porch steps. They sit and watch her work. Her work is feeding chickens.

When you came here to visit, you saw my husband’s parlor…but not mine.

I am not “worldly”; I am not a “property owner.” I am not free to travel; I have no “international oddities,” no “exotic collections.”

I am not afforded a parlor.

By Joanne Kuemmerlin
Writing the West @AMWA
Installed at American Museum of Western Art
Spring 2016