When I paint your body,

do I paint what's left behind?

No, I paint the soft light

spilling onto your last bed.

Did I irritate you when I tried to tell

you what business was like?

You bought me that suit anyway,

mahogany, thick wool weave,

snappy padded shoulders

and the long, slim skirt with a slit peeking out from a thick fold.

When I paint your body,

What am I fed?

Your estate's

numbers and forms

at my desk where I look

into the picture frames I took from your room:

photographs of babies, boys, young men --

my two sons growing.

I never put out pictures of my own.

When I paint the soft light

spilling on your bed...

You smelled of romance,

your teeth slightly crooked

when you smiled,

your glistening mink, fur deliciously cool--

when I buried my face, it tickled.

Your high heels clicking as you left, with Dad.

When I try to paint your body,

I paint something else instead.

We both married twice.

The first time you bought me a white leather book

to record crystal goblets and Tiffany spoons.

You ordered pale notepaper, monogrammed

with my new initials from a lead plate.

We both made long lists with our cross-looped letterings

in blue ink, now tossed together

in my attic in a box.

When I paint your body,

something unlocks.


Why aren't I painting you?



the color of



under the grey

(sky) dome,

its anvils of August thunderheads --


the pink of this tulip is not my color

too blue for me to want to paint

afraid to bruise it,

I lay the side of its yet-to-blossom

against my cheek, feel its calm

of floppy leaves drape

my fingers that hold their stem,

their reed.of.being

a breeze taints the sunlight

with winter's remnant chill

the petals are tight,

close in on each other

-- a not-yet-bloom,

the stem severed.raw

as I release the

into its clear glass vase with space and water

for it to breath



(for Morandi)

Where is that squattish bottle, azure blue,

the blue of Turkey, from the time of my handsome, stubborn Turkish lover?

A pomegranate shape,

its surface hacked with odd facets.

Did this husband drop that bottle too and not mention it,

hoping I'd forget?  Or is it gone

like my phone number from my mother's mind.

I am sick of bottles.

I've done them before.

Flowers are an excuse for texture and light

but I will do pears: the reddish or the green of early Sienna's terre verte

-- the Bosc or Anjou.

I struggle with the shapes

and echoes of blackbirds or a Brazilian river or two.

It only works when you're mad.

A twist of the palette knife flicks a dollop of slick ivory black.

See the late afternoon light just before the sun turns blood red,

noiselessly lisp across the lumpy fruit

defined by the shadows between.


Sometimes I forget the camera, forget

that the late afternoon sun can mix with the earth's warmed dust,

as it soaks back up from the fields.

We are driving from his parents' camp on the Tug Hill Plateau,

flat and dull until I start to see

the odd checkerboard patterns of meadow fan out in palest milky golds.

I want to stop, be free of our car,

flee into the fields, feel the light, capture the light,

inhale it, splay it across the soft resist of a stretched, virgin linen --

in slick varnish shine through the wet

with the glow of russet and Naples yellow.

We are driving fast.

My husband is talking about

what he wants to tell his boss

and an old sheep, barely white, cream,

stands alone by a bent stub of a tree,

munching, mouth working around, watching

as we barrel along.

We are supposed to be in Lake Placid before dark

and it will be tight

and the light is a way I have never before seen.

I say his name and I am aching inside,

not knowing why,

as he shifts his foot to press the brake,

it is so hard to ask.


I sketch, stand with my wire-bound pad

and Blackwing pencils, the lead soft and dark.

My hand swoops round the bulbous shapes,

jabs little sharp strokes for the knobby knees

and that odd patch of wool sticking straight up

on top of the head, ragged

so my pencil zigzags to chase it between floppy ears.

Munching, working, round small mouths.

Sunflowers in August salt the fields orange.

Why is it so hard to make my husband stop the car?

Is it my husband?  He always stops if I ask.

Where the trail dips toward the base of Cascade

a stream of glassy water magnifies the glacially rounded stones.

My husband is hiking.

I like to hike.

I like to use my body

but he's always ahead with his book on philosophy, waiting

on a rock, like a mountain goat, watching me catch up

while I place the sole of my boot

alongside, not across the thick roots,

step after step

remembering the sprained ankles,

the scent of my sweat attracting the small black flies.

What if I stop for a moment?  The trees are scarred

when the wind pulls away their mask.

The sheep are far out in closed pastures.  Dozens -- puffy, dirty brown sheep

shag across lumpy fields on skinny stick legs.

I knock on the one weathered house.

An old man gets a young man with dark hair,

the one who breeds the blackface sheep.  With his wife

we three walk in the fields hidden from the road.

This was his grandfather's land but, well, you know,

taxes, and they'd sold it to some westerner

who replicated a Montana ranch, built

the three story clock tower with logs.

He overseas the place.

He raises his blackface sheep.

She smiles but is missing teeth

and the lines in her face make me look away.

He says she is Italian.

In their gardens when I ask about strawberries

he snorts about frosts in August:

only potatoes and roots grow this far north

but I see his wife's dahlias, snapdragons, zinnias

dancing, wind-tossed, a froth of pink.

Take a stand.  Stand on my own.  Instead, I am a student again

caught in a slow, dry task.

The November snows spread out to the base of Algonquin

where Roosevelt first heard McKinley'd been shot.

A father and his two college sons.

No compass. Blinded by a white-out,

they break through the snow,

ice their feet in a stream.

No one prepared me for this wading in tar --

trained to be the good female, never crass.

I get out of our car, slip around on the rutted ice.

My fingers too numb to sketch,

thick paper prints grind out of my Polaroid --

in black mists bright eyes and spindly legs take shape.

Shaggy coats from a distance that look like great capes,

close up are matted and stained.

Under tail flaps, clots of dung and mud.

In a creased photo a grimace mars my mother's face,

a cigarette smoking from between her lacquered fingertips.

Nothing moves in the fields.

Gone the barn's crude wooden doors that kept foxes out.

Instead thick thermopane reflects a grey sky,

white sale stickers stuck on the glass.

I'd meant to ask the farmer

about the one sheep that never moved off, her back legs stiff.

Clotted wool hung down her matt black face, blocked her dull yellow eye.

She turned her head slightly, as if to see.


words on canvas delineate sounds or shapes




FOX       HOWL

uneasy chiasma of boxes that make a grid

or the grid makes the boxes

a voice in my head reprimands

that’s a silly thing to say

as the pen drags across paper

whose tooth catches at the tip

unable to say


how to say

becomes reproachment in dreams

back to my

fox scampers to the right, furred legs a flash of red

in its tiered box

embedded in toothpaste whites

or rather snow as silent as  Pamuk’s

each box a footprint

trekked through in a blizzard of flakes

a welter of harmonious dissonance

within crossed lines