Uncertain Grace

                         After Sebastião Salgado

How can she be beautiful? Eyes, ribs, the slope 
and angle of bone. The flesh itself is finished, 
so close it's come to the end

of hunger, a husk set aside, tied shut 
at the knees and ankles. Thumbs hooked 
with clean white cord. What used to be.

Famine in the Sahel, the eyes blown out.

She graces and wrecks the gallery walls
with her vanishing. Her lips dark with flies.

A man stubs out his cigarette.
           *          *           *

And yet the earth's haunches, its flanks of sand. 
Devious leaves and riverbeds, the pungent stars.

Something petalled and lush near the stone tomb 
where her eyes may yet open.

Swept clean. Someone has left a plate of salt fish 
and wine. This is arousal--how things live sometimes 
beyond great hurt. Elastic beauty. The lunatic flesh.

Copyright © 2000 by Rebecca Wee. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.