by Virginia Barrett
Girls with Red Flowers
One cradles a bowl of red flowers, her nipples
the same deep rose as the blooms. Tahiti is hot—
we women may all wish to live this way—our breasts
open to the flora, the fecundity they share.
“Take your shirt and sweater and off,” the man
with the camera urged in an isolated October meadow.
As a child you could not predict the outcome of any
given behavior, so you don’t know how to do it now.
Her gaze does not falter, but looks off
to the right—she accepts that he posed her here,
as if on her way to a pagan altar deep in the leaves
by the thundering waterfall.
It was unnatural to me, a cold-climate girl
just beginning to bud. The fact that they may treat
you poorly does not matter.
The second figure clasps pink flowers to her chest
in a posture of prayer. She leans into the first, her profile
tilted downward, eyes cask to the left, away from the bowl.
There is a gravity in her face—near mystical. We talk about
an external and an internal focus of control.
Black and white blow-up, the printed image
made me cringe: pudgy torso caught in awkward
adolescence above jeans. Your judgment of others
is not nearly as harsh as your judgment of yourself.
I have always loved Gauguin and his island girls,
their grace and naked ease, but it’s his abstract forms—
this brilliant yellow between trees—that makes me ache
to create . . . the situation is further complicated
by a terrible sense of urgency.