Martin Galvin


Gallery at the Tate
after Munch's Sick Child, 1907

Such scenes are posed, of course,
The twenty-eight children perched
On campstools in front of Munch’s
Fire, the teacher tribing them
About the sick child Munch has caught
Who must herself one time have posed
At being well but now is stuck for good
In bed, a study drawn from life.

Munch has got it right, they see.
The lie of being young and sick at once,
The lie of being made to stay in bed
Is something that they know as well
As their skin, a lucid parchment the girl
Who lies before them cannot mend or hide.

That Munch pretends to keep her alive
Is something that hurts them to attention.
She has their sympathy, but chooses rather
To look away, over her mother’s shoulder,
Beyond her mother’s bowed head. She does
Not want to see the way her mother’s hand
Has reddened with a mother’s shame

Exactly to the shade of her child’s hair,
To the rusted color of blood. She does
Not want to see the children unfold their
Legs to follow their teacher, to find
Their beds, to find the studios and sick
Rooms that will make them real and her.

Martin Galvin is the author of Wild Card, which won the 1989 Columbia Prize, judged by Howard Nemerov, and three chapbooks, Appetites, Making Beds and Circling Out. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 1997, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and Poetry. He has been awarded First Prize from the Sow’s Ear national competition (2007), Potomac Review (1999) and Poet Lore’s narrative poetry contest (1992). Galvin was awarded a residency at Yaddo for August of 2007.


Published in Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 2009.


Read more by this author:
Martin Galvin: DC Places Issue
Martin Galvin: Evolving City Issue