Photo by Eva Elijas

Art Lesson

There are no straight lines in nature.
—Gertrude Stein

I’ve painted cattails listless, stalks straight, stuck
Like pencils in a teacher’s cup, then waves
Folded against the shore like turned-down pages
You dog-ear for another day. You smile
And give me something new to paint and tell
Me to return to art’s first institute.
New canvas, fresh oils, clean palette prepare my failure
To paint a creek, a grove of mangroves, plots
Of land from a pilot’s cockpit-view without
Returning tributaries jutting out
From awkward angles, arrayed like cracks in a wall;
Or a spider’s web of lines that rises out
Of straight-edged surfaces; or lines like books
On a shelf, lines like window panes, or lines
Like siding freshly wrapped around our home.
But you with tousled hair, half bent over
Your cereal or shaving in the bath,
You, in the frenzied search for clasps and buttons,
Pretzeled about me, your shoulder’s stretchmarked tallies,
You perfectly uphold that rule, the one
I’ve tried to understand. So when you asked,
I spread the azure, amber, amaranth
For scenes I want to paint, but can’t compose,
The ones you repeat each night: In an old shirt
At the bed’s edge, you hunch—your vertebrae
Lined up like notes in scales or diaries—
Above the Journal spread across the floor.
When you comb and comb your knotted mop of hair,
Or dry brush winter’s reddened skin, when you clip
Your nails above the newsprint, recounting the day,
I find you only, always, fall into words.

Jake Ricafrente’s poetry has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, South Carolina Review, World Literature Today and elsewhere.

Jake Ricafrente’s poetry has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, South Carolina Review, World Literature Today and elsewhere.

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