He Would Always Love Painting More
Eight Lo-Fis

He Would Always Love Painting More

1. The Spectator

Sitting next to the bearded train conductor
and his chicken-fried steak at the long

hotel bar in Van Horn, I look away
from the NBA finals to think

a little of Matisse.  “A beast,”
the conductor shouts and pounds

the chest of his engineer pal
who can’t quite finish that

third shrimp cocktail. They’re talking
about Serge Ibaka who just keeps

blocking everything the Spurs put up.
When Duncan finally gets fouled,

the crowd waves white foam sticks
that from this distance look

like determined sperm.  All day I drove
my new blue diesel and listened

to reports of the sick kid who gunned down
sorority girls who didn’t love him exactly

the way he wanted.  “Well,” my husband said,
closing the trunk, “If you’re really gonna leave me,

you can at least get good gas mileage.”
Nothing loves us exactly the way we want.

Not Southern California and not Serge Ibaka,
or even his father Desire, Desire Ibaka.

Delacroix thought you should be able to
draw a body falling before it hits the ground.

Matisse shook his head, insisting
imagination remain in motion.

The engineer leans in closer to show me pictures
of his grandkids dressed up like Maverick

and Goose from Top Gun.  I always love
the part when the tragic blond watches

her man bang on the piano then yells
take me to bed, or lose me forever.   

Some of the men I watch have been bought
for their athleticism.  Some have season tickets

and will soon buy me another domestic beer.
One decorated the women on the couch

in exotic textiles.  One texts again to ask
if it’s really too late to turn around.

2.  Perspective

Children’s drawings become us,
because they are

so conceptual, eyes big as they
felt watching

a mountain, a mouth when it
starts saying no.

It takes years to grasp the problem
with hands,

how we can’t quite see contours of
our reaching clearly,

so we make a manageable
frame around our subject,

the place in the road, once when
the sky was both

that small and that close.

3.  Blue Sapphics

Music says a motive is what returns like

sweet-mouthed night it comes the tender notes getting

played on backs of upside down women who became

of the painters’ minds.

This the summer Babylon plays each time we

turn the wheel in search of a more familiar

sea to tune our landscapes to, every

line on our faces.

Waits the sun that walks on in time with watching

now that maps are made of some softer flow to

morning songs we hung on the empty glass that

called itself water.

Who is walking who?  The invisible can

make a cheesy joke too as rusty razors

decorate the dust.  You can translate any

life as tail, wagging.

Even with our wind seeming sick of feathers

I became a slave of the pose, sick of air.

Even with it shoving through open windows

that was our nature.

4.  No One Who Creates is Blameless

Putting horns on people suggests
strength or weakness, depending

on which way they curve.
Two circles mean you

may have to look harder.
Creator, I could say I was

minding my own regrets,
watching ants bury all

their dead together.  I could
say it was an honor

to have been your cloud,
to have your knuckles bruise

my backbone, your watery
voice drop like handfuls

of clean dimes.  Two lines
carved on the boulder

could mean empty or lost,
but I’m still writing this

for whoever made the blurry
butterfly tattoo launched

across the lower back of that
woman who with unlit cigarette

and glowing Bluetooth squats
to chisel off chunks of ancient

crystal wall. She did not,
like that yoga teacher

back in town, ask if we were
okay with all this sunshine.

Don’t explain the season
we planted fruit trees

and felt only cold stone rain.
Don’t explain.  It was an honor

to have been your goat, small
brained and hungry, your wind

advertising all it touched.

5. The Critic

Spanish has a saying for wanting
to prove what needs not.

You’re just trying to make the water wet.

Suppose I am
sick of being a woman, each
word of us read aloud

like a 19th century letter
to rooms of distant relatives.

It seems I would
still call the road sister.

It seems rusty pipes shake
awake each morning
while the sharp river
holds hands with rain.

Walking home, the man
I believe to be scratching
at his lottery ticket
instead stares

into a flip phone, looking up
to ask how he spells deserve.  

Like she don’t deserve it.

I wait for him
to find one letter at a time.

I like saying goodbye first.

This poem does not need
three reliable sources.

Today I want only to eat meat
and touch myself with clean hands.

6.  The Last Woman to Sit for Matisse Speaks of the Sea

Now I understand

we look at has
already happened.

Someone still

in next room.
I too read

the Mallarme
asking his wife

to nurse words
he stayed up

all night making.
Understand it was

always different
than we imagined.

Fist of bad luck
loosed like

a chant I can’t
do this I must.

To describe
women after the war

would require
more time.

Still the sea
was always

correct with me.
I would have

added detail—

arabesque, or salt—

Author’s Note: The title of this poem comes from Hilary Spurling’s A Life of Henri Matisse. Shortly after meeting his fiancé, Amelie, Matisse is reported to have told her, “I love you dearly, mademoiselle, but I shall always love painting more.”

Jenny Browne is the author of three collections At Once, The Second Reason, and Dear Stranger. Her poems and essays have been featured in American Poetry Review, The New York Times, Tin House and Threepenny Review. A recipient of fellowships from the James Michener Center for Writers, The Texas Writers League, and the National Endowment for the Arts, she now lives in downtown San Antonio,Texas, and teaches at Trinity University.


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