Self-Portrait in Watercolour at Twenty-Nine
"Do I believe in God? Yes, when I am working."
I wore only a sarong, pale
turquoise with yellow stripes,
tied loosely around my waist;
a beaded necklace, amber
and blue, fell between my
breasts; the closet door
opened to angle the mirror
right, I rested my shoulder
against the wall; I remembered
my unease with a photograph
of the artist as an old man, seated
but leaning on his cane, studying
the convergence of his standing
model’s thighs; watercolour
is an unforgiving medium,
the paper as light, as space, as
the color white, overworked
and the image gets murky;
was Matisse gathering the lines
of perfect communion in his
gaze? I can still hear the thwack,
thwacking of the great cable on
Jackson moving the cable
cars that day, the conductors
ringing rhythms with the bells as
the fog lifted and then—a stroke
of sunlight on my skin.
Virginia Barrett’s work has most recently appeared, or is forthcoming in The Writer’s Chronicle, Narrative, Poetry of Resistance (University of Arizona Press), New Mexico Review, and Forage. She received a 2017 writer’s residency grant from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of Taos, NM. Her chapbook, Stars By Any Other Name, was a semi-finalist for the Frost Place Chapbook Competition sponsored by Bull City Press, 2017. She holds an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and a MAT in Art from Rhode Island School of Design.
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