What's it like at the centre of the AGO?

Hmm. Imagine being coloured, drawn, and placed


in a wooden frame, another hung woman, positioned

just so in the middle of a landscape surrounded by rocks,


lakes, mountains, and trees, MacDonald to your right,

Carmichael to your left.  Imagine being forced to look,


to spend every unblinking moment of an 8-day week

staring at a Lawren Harris landscape, a frozen wall


of whiteness, when you know, outside, the glaciers

are melting, the trees are falling, one by one,


and the Beaufort scale has shrugged and turned its

back on September. Now, the winter legends are


sold in the gift shop—T-shirts, handbags, journals, calendars,

coffee cups, board games. Puzzling, isn't it? Makes you want


to laugh, a little, knowing you've been placed here

by kinder hands, to reconcile the past, to challenge


the climate of the centre. I'm a sign of the times,

still, no one knows my name. What's it like?


It's like I'm the number one answer to the question

you haven't considered, the one you never thought


to ask, the one staring you right in the face. 

Bibliographical info
Chantal Gibson, "How She Read" from How She Read. Copyright © 2019 by Chantal Gibson. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Source: How She Read (Caitlin Press Inc, 2019)
The poem "Veronica?" by Chantal Gibson is a response to a portrait that hangs in the AGO, Untitled, by McKague Housser. The poem is called Veronica? because that is believed to be the model's name, which is noted on the image information at the AGO. Chantal wrote the poem imagining this unnamed woman's voice--that is why her name has a question mark. See the portrait here:


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