The Music Chamber (Why I am not Matisse)
published in Sidereality
of two girls and a mother.
The girls sit at a piano
with their faces turned away.
Why, I don't know.
Are they looking for some forgotten light,
those wounded lovelies?
The curtains are half-drawn. A lovely
noon. I haven't decided
how many colors to let in.
So far the girls are huddled ink --
in a stupor maybe
from my endless wavering. (Should they wear pink? Are they any less innocent
if I smear them in gray wash?)
A dwarf figure, more like a stump
howls by the garden door. Yes, they are looking
toward it -- toward Mother. Crazy, I will admit,
but I hear her too. A howl
from a stump.
Wait. The piano's slippery keys.
Are those what they feel? The one girl, rapt,
picks a rhythm on the keys, a drowsy ping,
ping, like wax dripping on doilies.
Queenly steel blue eyes that
No! Wrong: gleam.
A gleam of black and steely something
slips down from Mother's sleeve:
How on earth
did she get in?
Quick, erase the arm, the bleeding whatsit --
I've brought in a note of savagery: I'm watching, I can't intervene.
Everything's on a grim course
There and there and there, beating with their tiny fists
the girls pounce on the knife in a rush
and Mother falls --
A charcoal saint
in bloodied crinoline.
How did it happen?
I wanted two girls, a mother,
a music chamber, a sweetly tender scene.... All the smiles
that a mother could wish.
And then came the stray thought,