Self-Portrait as a Young Tahitian
after Paul Gauguin
[and Adult Children of Alcoholics]
She cradles a bowl of flowers, her nipples
the same deep rose as the blooms. Tahiti is hot--
we women may all wish to live this way—our breasts
open to the flora, the fecundity they share.
[“Take your shirt and sweater and off,” the man
with the camera urged in an isolated October meadow.
As a child you could not predict the outcome of any
given behaviour, so you don’t know how to do it now.]
Her gaze does not falter, but looks off
to the right--she accepts that he posed her here,
as if on her way to a pagan altar deep in the leaves
by the thundering waterfall.
[It was unnatural to me, a cold-climate girl
just beginning to bud. The fact that they may treat
you poorly does not matter.]
Her friend clasps pink flowers to her chest: a posture of
prayer. She leans into the other, profile tilted down, eyes
cast to the left, away from the bowl. There is a gravity
in her face—near mystical. We talk about
an external and an internal focus of control.
[Black and white blow-up, the printed image
made me cringe: pudgy torso caught in awkward
adolescence above jeans. Your judgement of others
is not nearly as harsh as your judgement of yourself.]
These girls may live in grace and naked ease, but it’s
his abstract forms—this brilliant yellow between
trees—that makes me ache to create . . . the situation is
further complicated by a terrible sense of urgency.
Virginia Barrett’s books of poetry include Between Looking, Finishing Line Press (forthcoming, 2019) Crossing Haight, and I Just Wear My Wings. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
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