After Matisse’s Back Series
Yesterday, I hiked a narrow
hidden path to the frozen
waters of Lake Helen. Still,
they were fluid, distant. I grazed
my body along her curve and this
must have been the way you were blinded.
Scooping earth from the waysides
of her belly, cupping it in the crescents
of your palms, nearing so close
to your lips as to melt it with
your breath. This way, you could lean
yourself into the valley of her back, slide
over the rise of her thighs
and whisper the strokes of perfection
like a tourist, with hiking poles and an
oversized backpack, stunned
by the foreignness, the relevance
Too stunned, almost, to unload
your pack and stay
the night in its curvature, its mystified
bend. The morning appears and the lines
that the evening weight contours
seem more jagged at this hour. Like this,
the trees themselves grow thick: A neck
speared through the blades of an open back,
its leaves, folding, more than blowing, into
themselves, out of themselves.
I do not blame you for the blindness. It is
hard to tell beauty from the backside
of a stone, a lake, a day. I envy
your strength, uprooting
the tree like that, carrying the trunk
down through the leaning path, away
from the frozen body and evening
and dawn. The way you must
have lifted it above your head,
thrust it with such a force
as to rip apart the firm of her back
and leave it there.
Though by now you must be
an exhausted traveler, having already
woken in the break
of the day to watch the ways in which
sunlight traces and pools, you
are comforted in the subtleties of stillness.
She has become two pillars and you,
an artist, unforming.
Yael Herzog: "I have received my MFA from Bar Ilan University, and received the Andrea Moriah Poetry Prize in May, 2017. My work has previously been published in Eclectica Magazine and Aurora Poetry, and was nominated for the Sundress Publications 2019 Best of the Net Anthology. I grew up in New Jersey and now live in Tel Aviv, Israel, where I teach English to middle school and high school students.
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