On Being Married to Willem de Kooning
You left the figures faceless, Elaine,
then dared to title it Home.
Their arms disappear
into sepia and mustard,
earth’s most interior tones.
He taught you well, didn’t he,
shredding your still lifes
until you mastered each peony
and chair. If I roamed through
your West 21st St. loft,
I’d see your brush strokes wheeling,
the light of your city poured in.
Portraits are pictures girls make,
he said, horn blare and leaf dust
swirling. Tell me, Elaine,
how you claimed the air.
I’d see the floor cracking open,
your initials tight in a canvas corner
and the men you brought to life,
Cunningham, Katz, and O’Hara,
on their heels against the wall.
Tell me, Elaine, how everything
is made and unmade. Your hand
to the pigment quickened,
didn’t it, like a fish into current
or a species, radiant and
strange, thrashing against it.
Editor's note: This poem was inspired by the painting, Home, by Elaine de Kooning (USA) 1953. You can view the artwork here.
Sharon Pretti lives in San Francisco, California. Her work has appeared in journals including Spillway, Calyx, JAMA, Jet Fuel Review and is forthcoming in Schuylkill Valley Journal. She is also an award-winning haiku poet and a frequent contributor to haiku journals including Modern Haiku and Frogpond. She works as a medical social worker at a large county hospital where she also runs a poetry group for seniors and disabled adults.
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