Gertrude Stein

I’d just brushed the dog, there on the dog’s couch.
I was wearing a black—well, to call it a gown is a criminal
overstatement—a black rag. It became clear to me—

and when I say clear I mean the moment went crystal cathedral—
I could see my life from—not a long shot—
but what they used to call an increment apart—a baby step

to the right or left of myself—about the width of a corrective
baby shoe. There I was, broad-shouldered, witch-shaped
without the associated magic—with my dog in my shack—

once mauve faded to pink—beyond sex or reason—
a numbness had set in—Gertrude Stein, Picasso’s portrait of her—
that above-it-all—or within-it-all—look on—not a face

but the planes that suggest a face—the eyes
aren’t really lined up right or the real eyes are peering
from behind the cut-out shapes of eyes. The couch

had been a sort of—not a gift—but a donation of sorts
from a person with plenty of money. When it was dragged
into my house it was already—stately—but with worn patches

and stains. A trinity of dogs over time had laid claim to it—
three egotists. To brush the dog meant I had to visit it
in its monarchy—and in that visit—that single prismatic

increment—I saw I’d become—maybe all arrive in their own time—
some before dying, some after—a draped artifact—
haystack or headstone rising out of the plains—

and then, with fascination—and a degree
of sadness and even objectivity—I loved—
as I once loved “Tender Buttons”—myself.

Copyright © 2021 by Diane Seuss. This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker, August 16, 2021. Used with the permission of the author.