blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



A Commission
           —Noel Hallé, painter, 1711-1781

The nobleman's girl arrives, her skirt filling
up a doorway. Pale with light as the cake
layered like St. Bride's: architecture
mimicking nuptials to be devoured.

Velvet darkens her cheek.
Shadow darkens the velvet.

I take out brush and linger as if to adore

what on canvas must be re-
constructed: the silver
tonality of neckline, mustard
in the bodice braid. As a child
before my mother's table, I'd counted out such

colors of jars in mineral hues, crushed and blown
into hearts, used to transform the angles
of the body with. Apple green, a dust of fine blush
like the covering on damsons.
Rose hollyhock.

Spattered with the peruke's gray sheen,
now in her face, blood struggles
under the girl's mask of arsenic.

It is like watching something living

crawl beneath something dead.
I look at her and think of gods
who clasp nymphs in fountain
statuettes as if they wanted them to drown,

and wish their stone laurels could be stripped away,
the metallic sheen of silk
pulled from shoulders, gilding gone in preference
for the real form of us to stay put
and shine.

If I could I'd draw through the girl

a hardier seed than classical urges trailing off
into pastilles. More permanent
than the painted draperies or foot's arch
curve similar to any aqueduct's.

In my bedclothes later, the girl turns

to a collection of thin papers whispering.
I grip her slim wrists to chain her where she lays
with scarf and pillowcase.

Close my eyes. Imagine
the sheen of her young
body as it rises. Harder without the dress,
I believe. Broader
and strong, her boyish limbs churn and churn

like smoke in this white space between us
of my eternal bed, my need.  

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