Winter 2001


Alicia Ostriker


What ripe interiors whose wallpapers
Sofas and kitchen tables bleed together
Like the proverbial village of synchronized women

In the primitive world of someone like Gauguin
Or Rousseau, although surely this is France?
What womblike gardens, stifling, vibrant, jungleish

Fabrics abuzz, strange purples flicking green
Like acid odors, softness of peach, dryness of knife,
A dangerous lime safety, where are we?

Areas whose colors are merely sketched in,
Whacked over jangling hot others, the brushstrokes
Actually spineless, nothing like Monets

Brisk rich purposeful economies,
Make a rather disturbing comfort,
And everywhere, tawny, inescapably bathing

The evanescent Marthe, all torso, all shadow,
A servitude that glows like absence
Syruped, raisined and available

Floating across a melancholy orange undercoat,
Are these the mysteries of domestic
Life in the modern void?

Exhausted plenitudes!
Meaning and technique elude our thought
Until in the final room his self-portraits

Shock:  he paints himself in the image
Of a mail clerk, chinless, pale,
Dusty.  Lacking a living face, effaced.

Alicia Ostriker's most recent book of poems, The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998, was a  finalist for both the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent prose volume is Dancing at the Devils Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic.  Ostriker lives in Princeton, NJ, and teaches english and Creative
Writing at Rutgers University.


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