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Girls with Red Flowers by Virginia Barrett

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.


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