Silhouette by Jennifer Martelli
after Kara Walker
The first one happened fast: in ancient Greece
a man about to leave for war stood against
the alabaster wall of his lover’s courtyard at noon.
She traced the shape of his shadow
with coal, careful to capture the bony essence: arced nose, cowlick.
What with the sun moving like a chariot, she had to trap it all.
And they are cheap! Thus, silhouette, from Etienne de Silhouette,
money minister in Paris, who urged cuts and prudence even in love--
the trick was to keep your tiny knife honed and to keep contrast.
And so, a delicate eyelash, a strong chin, a wigged man, sideways.
And silhouette, from the Basque, meaning abundance of hole or of cave.
And anyone with a knife could make a cave cheaply, on paper,
on the dusty layer of a shell. Anyone could make a hole.
An artist in NYC covered a whole room of white walls with silhouettes.
She used her X-Acto and cut skinny girls, gawky, with braids
scalloped and curved like the horns of beasts; she shaped
the noose from the tree like the braids. She cut eyelets
along the hem of a woman in a petticoat so the white
showed through the black paper and I bet she saved those
comma-shaped chads to glue around the baby dropping
from a knobby-kneed girl to make it look wet and fresh.
Jennifer Martelli’s chapbook, Apostrophe, was published in 2011. Most recently, her poetry has appeared in Wherewithal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Rogue Agent, and The Yellow Chair Review. Her reviews have appeared in Glint, Arsenic Lobster, The Mom Egg and Drunken Boat. She is a recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry, a Pushcart and Best of the Net Nominee and works as an associate editor for The Compassion Project. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with her family. www.jennifermartelli.com
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