Late Painters: Matisse
Papier-découpé: form filtered to its essentials
When his hands could no longer hold a brush,
Matisse turned to paper and scissors: “painting”
with cold metal carving heavy gouache
like a knife through butter, shearing shallow
reliefs. The liberation of image from paper.
And my left hand, too, betrays me, mysteriously
cramping, twisting like a snail in a shell. No relief
but to pry my fingers back into the shape
of a normal hand. And so the dance goes on.
Confined to chair or bed, Matisse’s “seconde vie”
lasted fourteen years, as he learned to use white
as a negative space, working paper like a sculptor
cutting through stone. This is where I’d like
to be working, reducing the buzzing complicated
world to its pure essence, ridding myself of
arabesques and complexities, summing up
the dance of my life in simple forms.
Barbara Crooker is the author of many books of poetry; The Book of Kells and Some Glad Morning are recent. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse. www.barbaracrooker.com
The Ekphrastic Review
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