Ekphrastic Poetry

Nude with Blue Cushion

Amedeo Modigliani
Nude with Blue Cushion

Jeanne Hébuterne, Modigliani’s mistress,
threw herself from a high window, on learning
of his death, while nine months pregnant.

They deepen, satiated with desire
like the filming of trout pools
by the clouding of the sun, her sloe-black
burnt-black almond eyes.

Everything begins with the skin:
soft flesh gleaming in the knowledge
of its own perfection, recalling the recent
pleasure of his hand, the current pull of the brush.

Here she is all present: her
hip, navel, thigh, utterly surrendered
to the iridescence of madder hues,
the fullness of his love.

Elongated as a languid cat
she lies: a crooked arm angling her head
against the little cushion of faded blue
reveals its damp pit of tangled hair.

Softened by hashish and hunger
she does not now concern herself with sous
or grey morning’s marketing of bread.
Jeanne maybe? Her future as yet unwritten:

Backwards, nine months with child,
through that high window.
For chaos and sweet death tonight lie drugged
with a flush of carmine, of Venetian red.

From Everything Begins with the Skin
Published by Enitharmon 1995

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