Nude (Study), Sad Young Man on a Train
– after the painting by Marcel Duchamp
Alone he walks the empty platform. Later,
on the train, distant trees spool slowly by.
Slurry fields, frantic autumn colors
and the reflection of the car’s interior:
vacant seats next to him
and sleeping passengers with heads
bowed to books in their laps.
The solitary man succumbs to earth’s
vibration and the body’s physics. When
he disembarks, he won’t know the way.
A train passes in which another sad man
contemplates his position: a single needle
on its compass and in the stars.
(originally published in River Oak Review Vol. 2, No. 7, Elmhurst, IL, December 2010)
Constellation of the Open Heart
– after the painting by Kathleen Morris
The woman mid-canvas
her legs crossed Yogi style.
Her hands in prayer at her chest.
The title tells you what to look for:
her open heart bursting, exploding life,
similar to science in its acclaim of parts.
Her torso’s covered by what comes from heart.
The heart once solid in its red beating chamber,
the deoxygenated blood seeking its O2,
and the oxygenated blood leaving for port.
Now, all that remains of this heart is
its openness, that elusive, floating contagion.
(originally published in Ping Pong Magazine, Big Sur, CA: October 2011)
– for my grandma
Bless those old hands
capable of holding a girl’s sad face.
But now your body heaped on dry fagots,
cedar chips, oil-soaked wood.
Does the skin retain memory of skin?
Is touch the transposition of love?
I forge up the ladder of your pyre
wanting, needing those able hands,
but they pull me down. It takes three of them
(all six hands) to pry me off the rungs.
Once the embers have cooled
I scoop you up all bone shard and silk.
The ash of flesh clings to my palms,
persists like remembrance of skin-to-skin,
like when it was just us
our four hands apprentice and expert.
(originally published in Runes: A Review of Poetry, Sausalito, CA: November 2006)
Nude in front of the Mirror
– after the painting by Pierre Bonnard
Bonnard insists she freeze before their full-length mirror.
Hour upon hour she eyes her pageboy hairdo,
the elbows at right angles, and
two legs obedient soldiers.
Kept from her though: the clenched buttocks,
the continuum of skin protecting its stolid spine,
the body’s certain mandarin shade.
With the painter at her back
the woman in the mirror positioned like armor
guards him from that which she suffers.
He’s captured the instant she can’t stand herself –
there in a body accumulating the color of shame.
And after the portrait’s done, she’ll not do it again,
watching herself seeing her body, that orange coffin.
(originally published in Ekphrasis Vol. 5, No. 5 Sacramento, CA: March 2011)