Patti Smith, 1976
This photo, black-and-white, where Mapplethorpe
portrays his dark-mopped ex in profile, seated
nude on wooden floorboards, knees drawn up
against her breasts to hide her nipples, heated
by the sideways radiator pipes
on which she rests her palms, her bulging ribs
a set of parallel oblique gray stripes
rippling her bare white skin, unsmiling lips
a short flat line--
these were my first parameters,
my inspirations, when I learned to write.
On Patti’s ribs, the wooden flooring’s planks,
the stacked pale pipes, I modeled my pentameters.
The aim: amid such sharp lines, to be frank
and raw, yet still control what sees the light.
This poem was inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe's photograph, Patti Smith, 1976. Click here to see it.
Jenna Le is the author of A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2018), which won second Place in the Elgin Awards, and Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011). She was selected by Marilyn Nelson as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s inaugural sonnet competition. Her poems appear or are forthcoming from AGNI, Bellevue Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Rattle, and West Branch.
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