What ripe interiors whose wallpapers
Sofas and kitchen tables bleed together
Like the proverbial village of synchronized women
In the primitive world of someone like Gauguin
Or Rousseau, although surely this is France?
What womblike gardens, stifling, vibrant, jungleish
Fabrics abuzz, strange purples flicking green
Like acid odors, softness of peach, dryness of knife,
A dangerous lime safety, where are we?
Areas whose colors are merely sketched in,
Whacked over jangling hot others, the brushstrokes
Actually spineless, nothing like Monets
Brisk rich purposeful economies,
Make a rather disturbing comfort,
And everywhere, tawny, inescapably bathing
The evanescent Marthe, all torso, all shadow,
A servitude that glows like absence
Syruped, raisined and available
Floating across a melancholy orange undercoat,
Are these the mysteries of domestic
Life in the modern void?
Meaning and technique elude our thought
Until in the final room his self-portraits
Shock: he paints
himself in the image
Of a mail clerk, chinless, pale,
Dusty. Lacking a living
Alicia Ostriker's most recent
book of poems, The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998,
was a finalist for both
the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy
of American Poets. Her most recent prose volume is Dancing at the
Devils Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic.
Ostriker lives in Princeton, NJ, and teaches english and
Writing at Rutgers University.