Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
print version

Gauguin Among the Tahitians

There are nowhere the naked skins,
the onion peel-thin skeins that screen the numerous lights
floating by these humid evenings.

Only the gowns of the colonized, little silk penal colonies
of which I quickly grow sick.

The family I left behind dissolved into photogravures of the new smoke
settling over the city’s simple alleys.

I watched my money follow the slackening tides.
A whore for tourists.

I could have dreamed these black horses anywhere,
where they would have galloped out of the dark
with their slumped rider and flying lizards
and women with twelve toes.

What could have been better than these insolent children
beating each other with sticks?

I blamed my own for every broken brush and Sunday lost
to the Monday stock reports.

I was in my forties.

My knees hurt frequently, I could hardly walk
to the business district.

I sold tarpaulin in the worst of it and my own attempt at bloodletting
was misfortunate.

I will be forgiven my tropical appellations.

Be forgiven my love for the young girls, forgiven for lying
in Negro huts, gray as they were dirty with children.

There is nothing Christlike
in the jungle, nothing ennobling of the sores along my thighs.

But notice the paintings: see how the women turn away
from me.

They stare into the jungle beyond the coronas I have given them.
Even the cow is without interest.

As for me, there was nothing left to do.

I followed the young boy with his axe into the thicket.
I bore my biases and my narratives and my throbbing temples.

My own prison was not to be made of silk or smell of mango
unless in the memory of paint not unlike the blood that ran
the length of my arms

as I struck at the tree of which I desired nothing anymore
but a single twisted branch
to serve me for my fire.  

return to top