December 01, 1990|By Joyce S. Brown

Seated Nude

Matisse gave one

woman an equilibrium

she may or may not

have had before the

bite which made her

fall out of grace and

into clumsiness.

He, with an eye for

possibility, refashioned

her, set her free.

Laughing with only

dents of eyes, she leans

back, hands crossed

behind her head, left

foot hooked beneath

right knee, pleased

in her posture to defy

the force of gravity, the

force of grave theology.

Museum Visit

She moves through marble hallways

to the desk, and, passing the

mysterious priest who guards the door,

adjusts the fabric of her skirt.

In the first-floor ladies' room

she stops to arrange her hair,

to check her profile: Nefertiti.

In the Italian wing she tilts her head,

Madonna-style, at Duccio.

She stands by a Vermeer window

in the sun of a Constable sky.

A school group, noisy as Kandinsky,

leaves her Cubist, longing for

some tea, a bath to unfold in

pink and languid as the Matisse nude.


I attack with fury

bits of boxwood, holly,

bough of beech and maple;

round irregular and nameless

bushes, cut away dead branches

from the ragged pear and plum.

The sun is hot; I'll rest

then go inside and prune a closet

of the clothes I never wear but

save in hopes they may come back

in style, save because

the wool or cotton's pure.

Prune the bookshelves of best

sellers, prune out Kierkegaard

and Kant, weed from drawers

their growth of letters,

clear the verbiage away.

So the outside, so the inside.

Prune the inside, inside me.

Root out all the seven deadlies:

Lust and anger, sloth and envy,

covetousness, gluttony and pride.

Prune out all my fear of shrinking;

let me lie down finally, a leafless,

wordless, pageless, priceless

pink, uncluttered Matisse nude.

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