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For Dora Maar

ISSUE:  Spring 2001
My neck is sunburned
just on the right side, where the sun
shone from the east all morning.
I lay on the Picasso towel,
right on the face of his “Weeping Woman”
who never stopped weeping, who died
last week at eighty-nine, and when
the newspapers got the story later
every one of them called her his lover
and talked, in one way or another,
of how she was broken by him and went mad,
and ended the events of her life there,
but lived on fifty years more.

I read the obituary, sitting right on her face.
The paper blew in a hot wind;
the print was dancing, yellow and purple
dots in a compensatory strobe; she had a green
tear on her cheek, a blue nostril.
I thought nothing could touch me like that,
that I knew how to master need.
I wore my innocence like a shield,
so I lay down and ground my body
into that weeping woman. The hot sand
under us was moving with my hipbones,
shifting, sifting, but never soft,
always rock; however fine,
however mutable, at the beach you lie on rock
that presses back and makes you ache
if you lie still, that is only soft
if you keep moving, making it give way
under you. The sun was all over me,
glinting off my oiled and polished skin,
harmlessly hot, and that one place
the unguent missed, the white curve
of my neck behind my ear, above my shoulder,
silently burning though I could not feel it,
taking the sun’s primitive beating
down to the bone.

Today I can barely turn my head;
it’s like wearing a garment that’s too tight,
which is my burned skin trying to repair
itself, the spot where my hand keeps going,
too late, to protect, to soothe or hide,
or simply to remember the branding the sun gave me,
in the one place where I was not protected
when I lay on the burning rock I made yield
beneath me, on the face of that weeping woman
I said I would never become.


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