After Degas

Ekphrastic Poetry

Her young body lies a twisted S
In the pool of her black skirt,
The encased striations of her pin-

striped blouse, on a cool mattress
of sand under the tilted parasol,
Beneath closed eyelids

she breathes the thick
smell of surf and shore, hears
the yelp of damp dogs, the distant

shrieks of children running bare-
foot beneath the pewter sky,
as her sodden hair pours

onto the spread white cloth
where her mother drags and
and drags the shark-toothed comb

through the tangled mass.
She flinches, surfacing from day-
dreams: fat-bellied sails of distant

ships taught as bare skin, fish-tang
of rigging, the heave and heft
of dripping nets, wind unhooking her

like the steel eyelets on her bodice,
a taste of salt on her lips.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Beach Scene, 1877

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