Centers of Gold after Aplebaum by Gustav Klimt
The point, after all, with canvas, brush, and paint,
isn’t it to beguile the viewer’s eye, to cause
this moment, these lingering minutes, of pausing?
All for what, she wonders. To gaze, then look
again, to be lifted up out of the self, until one
joins what she looks at. What is it? The tree
barely distinct from what surrounds it, the trunk
slowly taking shape as a vertical skeleton, with fruit,
apples, of no variety she’s known, everywhere bright
and laden, drooping at the ends of branches.
In the middle ground, a meadow where, yellow, tall,
two drifts of common dandelion sway knee high.
The foreground’s a riot of cosmos: pink, white,
crimson, and burgundy, some with centers of gold.
She refuses to move from the spot, a wooden bench
where she sits alert, leaning in. There it is—
a shadow under the boughs. It had to be there,
the darkened place, ominous future of fallen
apples, also of her and her love, what she’s sure
is coming and can’t accept, beauty’s attendant cost.
Open me like an oyster. Yes, it involves
a knife and some risk. Take your time,
love, and wear a protective mitt.
Admire all my shades of gray and black.
Drink the juices from my shell, savoring
the salinity. Swallow any bits of grit
or shell, not worrying they will harm you.
Use a fork and dip me whole into pale
mignonette sauce. How I love its acid
notes—red wine vinegar, black pepper, minced
shallots. When I found that recipe,
I wanted oysters every week. To your
credit, you indulged me. Isn’t that
the best marriage? Indulge me again,
ever so slowly. Use your mouth, your
flexible tongue. Once you’ve warmed me,
juices rising, anything becomes possible.
Notice how we go out of the world together,
riding a wave of flesh, warmth, holy
waters that our bodies create as one.
Discover all the openings that do not usually
gap so wide. There is nowhere else
we need to be. Bow at the altar of our
commingling. Do this again and again,
in the name of all the seas we come from.
Because What We Do Lives On
This is not my gruff grandfather. Not his hat
or his cigar boxes, still fragrant. This is what she said
late in his life, going over to his small house
with frozen pipes. His grown son crawled under the house
with a hairdryer, an extension cord, cobwebs
and spiders everywhere in his hair, caught
on his sleeves. What’s he doing now? the voice
was not her husband’s. Why is he taking so
fucking long? When they were first married, she worked
to welcome these people into her life, her children’s
lives. Christmas morning breakfast with cinnamon
rolls and gifts. Years of gifts for the kids: a plastic comb,
a pleated plastic rain bonnet, a card of bobby pins.
She sat in the kitchen with him, the table
with a jar of bacon fat next to the pepper and salt.
If you ever speak to him like that again, she
breathed, we won’t be back. My mother,
gone some nineteen years but living on
with her iron fierceness. If you ever!
And my grandfather sat silent, holding his
hat in his hands, stopping his tongue. This
is not his voice, his unshaven cheek, that
kitchen and its worn linoleum floor.