La Maja Desnuda
You recline wet and nude on my canvas
a perfect success of curves and
the bent knees of submission.
I close the blinds on the eyes of the world
so only I can watch you slowly dry,
your damp hair and sweaty skin.
But eyeing the pallet like one last drink,
I give in to a drunkard’s temptation.
Pushing for a beauty beyond perfection
I try adding to you, thickening
your lips or making them tremble.
I mix paints with tiny bird feathers,
ashes of my journals, salt from my sweat,
beach sand to match my stubbled throat,
and glass, ground fine as pollen
to sparkle your cheeks.
I search for new brushes:
a thin brush to tickle you,
a flat hard reed to mold you,
a heavy housepaint brush to smear you
and prove my detachment from your image.
I search the house for new tools,
my toothbrush, my babyteeth, my backbone,
a scorpion to see if you jump,
if its trail would slur new patterns
of delight onto your wet skin or
if he might be dazzled and drowned
in your colours.
I fear I’ve gone too far.
I want to remove that sharp edge
of your beauty, the heavy breasts,
the willful cross of the arms,
the dazzling eyes. My hands shake.
I cannot work quickly.
I run through the house
turning on the stereo, television,
radio, dishwasher, trying
to lure my senses from you.
I sweat for you through the din.
I return and throw my whole body
against the canvas, falling back
stained with your image.
I paint in deafness. I paint out your eyes
and make you a beggar with bloody knees.
I try to secret a flaw on the canvas so
the drying paint will peel back
and flake away. I shake
the canvas to see what you’ve been hiding,
expecting secret pentimentos
to fall from your mouth.
My knees finally weaken
and I slump in the chair.
I paint your eyes back in
and they shine in victory.
I wipe the blood from your knees
and find your thighs flushed.
Your chin juts out defiantly
beyond the canvas. Your hands
could mold me into submission now,
holding my brush and turning it
to thicken my mustache or
deepen the blue of my eyes.
I look up to see you
reaching toward me.
m.j.smith teaches literature, mythology and writing courses at City College of San Francisco. smith's recent work has appeared in Alba: A Journal of Short Poetry and Corners of the Mouth: A Celebration of Thirty Years at the Annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival. smith works in the Mission district of SF and lives at the foot of Mount Diablo in Concord. voyagecities.wordpress.com
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