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Rubens’ Women

ISSUE:  Spring 2001

Herculasses, a feminine fauna.
Naked as the crashing of barrels.
Cooped up on top of trampled beds.
They sleep with mouths poised to crow.
Their pupils have retreated into the depths,
and penetrate to the heart of their glands,
trickling yeast into their blood.

Daughters of the Baroque. Dough bloats in a bowl,
baths are steaming, wines are blushing,
piglets of cloud are dashing across the sky,
trumpets neigh in physical alarm.

O pumpkinned, O excessive ones,
doubled by your unveiling,
trebled by your violent poses,
fat love dishes.

Their skinny sisters got up earlier,
before dawn broke within the painting,
and no one saw them walking single file
onto the unpainted side of the canvas.

Exiles of style. Ribs all counted.
Birdlike feet and hands.
They try to ascend on gaunt shoulderblades.

The thirteenth century would have given them a golden backdrop.
The twentieth, a silver screen.
But the seventeenth has nothing for the flatchested.

For even the sky curves in relief-relieved
angels, a relieved god—
a moustached Apollo astride a sweaty steed
enters into the steaming bedchamber.


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