Prose Poem: after I Do Not Know What a Painting Does and Numbers, Patterns, Movements and Being

by Katherine Pyne-Jaeger

            I do not know if a painting is not what we thought. It is even numbers in a
shellfish spiral, even columns of cloud after cloud like steely teeth, even halves of
a cleaved skull. The inside is filigree - you wouldn’t expect it, would you? You'd
say it’s bone, it’s white, it’s sounds that break ribs and red, you’d have to explain
the letter-thin streaks and sockets. Harder than it looks, if you ask me. Painters
always drew their beauties in full flesh, or in whole shapes, succumbing to the
straightforward caress of geometry. Here you go, here’s a brush and a promise,
it’s easy. Just like the cupped-hands glint of a pistol at midday - eight, nine, ten -
like the sine-wave coils of a snake - two pi, three-halves pi, shove a bone in to
make up the empty space - like a scoured nautilus shell. Look, we’re back to
delicacy. Maybe something’s too white-knuckle there for us to let it go, white as
skin and waterlilies and skulls shouldn’t be, the steadily approaching fragility,
hands held out.

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