Two Portraits, Both Slant

Texas Truck – Acrylic on paper – 11 x 17 inches.

“Tell all the truth,” wrote Emily Dickinson, “but tell it slant.”

Among many things to love in her poems is the lightness of her spirit. Of course, “slant” is not
necessarily devious. It’s just that truth, especially inner truths, are often too complex and elusive to tell, except “slant.” Plus, it’s more fun. So let’s dance with Emily.

We’ll use a few symbols to paint an inner portrait. Let’s imagine that our subject is male and that at the moment he is in Texas. Maybe he owned the truck, or one like it. Perhaps he’s looking back at a happier time. Is the truck a rusty dream from his past? And the dancing figures: are they male or female? Younger than he is? They seem to be having fun. Would he like to join them? Or are they a dream? And what is that strange shape floating overhead? A comet, a meteor? Is he even awake? Perhaps he’s only dreaming.

A different poet than Emily asks: Why wear the same suntan every day? Good question. So let’s paint another portrait and change the gender of our subject. She’s in Texas too, but she wishes she were somewhere else. Maybe she arrived recently from California and is finding it difficult to fit in here. Perhaps to her the truck is the perfect symbol of Texas itself, a broken hulk of a broken promise, her dream of a better life? And the naked girls? Are they dancing around a black burning figure, or is it her imagination? And what is that apparition in the sky! Stars swimming in the current of some strange galaxy? Or maybe it’s just the skeleton of a dragon.

Literal explanations are OK, but I hope
you had fun
dancing with me
and Emily.