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(after La Condition Humaine by René Magritte)


          This is how we see the world.

                             -René Magritte, 1938 lecture


There is a room where a man lies next

To a woman whose shoulders are lit

By morning. He wakes her to drift

Of clouds, wash of skies, drizzle

Of leaves in the air.  “Magritte,”

He says into her ear, tracing

With a long slender finger,

A frame beyond the windowpane.


Another room in another time

Suddenly opens inside her.

She is standing by a window

Before the painting’s expanse of grass,

The cut of dirt road, and on the horizon

A stand of mountains measuring the reach

Of a single aspen. “La Condition Humaine,”

She turns to the man beside her,


As if to say she understood how inside

And outside the rooms of love

The landscape was not always seamless;

How, every time she turned her heart

Into words to invent the true form

Of being, dustmotes were already trapped

In the light of images, like this morning

Vanished fast into another day.


In no time they shall each be elsewhere.




I wrote “La Condition Humaine” after a 12-year incubation of the images that simmered during a stay in the Bacong Tree House in Negros Oriental. That summer the flame trees, also called flambouyant in French, lined the pathways to the tree house. The writing of the first line was sparked by two experiences: 1) going for two days to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. to look at the painting, and 2) re-reading Simon Schama’s book “Landscape and Memory” (1995) for a book project I was writing on the art of Boholano painter Hermogena Borja Lungay. Magritte’s painting argues that we see the world the way it shows us how: the view outside the window has been superimposed with a painting that depicts the landscape as though they are continuous and undistinguishable.


Magritte says in a 1938 lecture: “We see it (the landscape) as being outside ourselves even though it is only a mental representation of what we experience on the inside.” Schama cites Magritte saying: “What lies beyond the windowpane of our apprehension…needs a design before we can properly discern its form, let alone derive pleasure from its perception.”  It is this design that I have tried to craft in the poem.


- Dr. Marjorie Evasco


La Condition Humaine

by Marjorie Evasco

La Condition Humaine

by René Magritte


Oil on Canvas

39 inches x 32 inches

From the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.


René Magritte (21 November 1898 – 15 August 1967) was a renowned Belgian artist.  His most well-known paintings from his body of work was part of the surrealist movement.


This painting is part of the collection of the National Gallery of Art located at Washington D.C. encourages a visit to their site.  You can view "La Condition Humaine" by following this link:

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