With the So-Called Sick

With the So-Called Sick

With the So-Called Sick by Carl Larsson, a watercolor and pastel of Karin Bergoo Larsson reading to one of the Larsson children, 1908.

With the So-Called Sick

In the green crib the child is not sleeping.
Shadow covers the top of the sleepless face
and in the shadow the eyes are open wide.

Are they looking at Mother’s face as she reads
or watching the red pompoms on the toes
of her jaunty slippers propped on the side

of the crib’s green rail? Or are they seeing
a distant land where a princess rides
on a black horse across the shifting sands?

Or the blue-black deeps where a mermaid swims
through anemone glades to trade her tail
for legs and passage to overwater lands

Through waves that ripple like the frothy hem
of Mother’s skirt? In the green lamp’s warm glow
and fast under the spell of the dim room

Mother’s voice is the best balm. Nothing soothes
quite so well the querulous child who
forgets all ills in the gathering gloom.

And Mother, cozy in the red rail chair
Forgets her chores, the dishes, the mending
enjoying her respite by the sickbed.

Tomorrow the malingerer will be well
and bask in the joy of the story’s ending
And all the terrors of the night shall be fled.

I’ve been enjoying the challenge of writing poems to go with paintings. Carl Larsson’s paintings are amazing and, while I don’t think my words quite does this one justice, it’s a fun exercise.

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  • Lovely.

    Maybe Mother is reading her own book aloud to baby, so that baby can be soothed by her voice while Mother gets in an extra chapter. (Says someone who tried this yesterday at nap time.)

    • Thank you.

      Mrs D, I was thinking along those lines. I just couldn’t manage to squeeze that thought into the poem no matter how hard I tried. But in my drafts there were several attempts to follow that rabbit trail. The mermaids and princesses won out, though. They had better rhymes.