After Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bed,”
oil and pencil markings on pillow, quilt, and sheet, 1955

So garish: the arc of his interior
thinking. So red,

so deceptive. The coordinates of this project fall
between sheets and box spring:

the command of horizontal passage.
The bed soaked

with the overlapping tongue
of his brushes, with pattern interruption, the departure

from edges. Let’s say he is within
his composition. Inside

his story. As he tips
the paint, the objective can be taken

altogether away until he detects
only desire: a rough strike

of purple
censured from exuberance. The room remains

with the weeping wreckage
all around, and the panels

in the corner
beaded with aggressive desperate skins.

Below the window, the dirty
city, its permanent

tensed distances, its hungry
catastrophes, its bare

windows. His pillow is creased. It tells everything
we need to know. Each drip, directionless.

Copyright © 2016 by Lauren Camp. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.