Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ladies in Gold, Ladies with Cats, Ladies Alone

Sugar Woman
on Gustav Klimts
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, 1907

She flumes
through the curve-
clung gown
as though she
were built of
god eyes:
bosom to belly,
hips to ankles.
Or peacock feathers
cloaked in amber
wings amid whorls
of silver and gold.
All fragile glint
as if everything
could dissolve

at any moment
to burnt sugar.

Lady Holding a Cat
Katsushika Hokusai, c. 1810s

Shes wrapped fold over fold over fold, her iromuji
layered like swaddling, binding her arms close

around her feline treasure. A madonna
protecting her tiny charge, she hugs it to her cheek,

makes them almost one, their faces wrought
in the subtlest of lines, as if the artist wanted

to convey diminishing physicality, crescive spirit
in the suggested warmth of their mingled breath.

His stroke guides focus to the only other point
of interest, this spiraled garbno background,

no flowering twigs to ease the starknessand his lines
grow dark, harsh, her robes angular at her back,

armor auguring danger. As though out of the frame,
like a Herodian soldier, threat advances.

Bernadette McBride has published two poetry collections, Food, Wine, and Other Essential Considerations (Aldrich Press) and Waiting for the Light to Change (WordTech Press). She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, whose poems have appeared in U.S. and UK journals and on PRIs The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She has taught creative writing at Temple University and currently teaches writing and literature at Bucks County Community College. She served as Pennsylvania Poet Laureate for Bucks County (2009), and is poetry co-editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal. You can visit her at

Cristina's World by Andrew Wyeth, 1948
The Family Farm

I never asked to be dressed in pink
muslin, much less to be born in this feature-

less field.  How many days did I wake
to find myself down on the ground? 

Nights, he came to me, breath akin
to wet hay. Walked me to the barn—
the length of a belt away. Silent.
A tuning fork, vibrating. In my mind,

I was already naked and nestled
within a crow's wing. I’d swing
across the widening to where
the end of thought, end of want

was not nested somewhere in this shit-
brown hair. If the night was kind,
I might return to find him gone.
I’d stumble across this apron of grass,

crumpling as far away as I could get
yet still see what passed for home.
At the time, I wished mostly
for the pinking sky to be brought to a stop—

framed. I’d turn my head from left to right.
Search for the sensible horizon.

Lissa Kiernan is the author of Two Faint Lines in the Violet (Negative Capability Press, 2014), a Foreword Reviews' 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Finalist, as well as a finalist for the 2014 Julie Suk Award for Best Poetry Book by an Independent Press. Her book-length braided essay, Glass Needles & Goose Quills: Elementary Lessons in Atomic Properties, Nuclear Families, and Radical Poetics, is forthcoming in the spring of 2016. Read more at


  1. Hi Lisa - How lovely to see the Klimt and read the poem, while the wrapping of the arms around 'le chat' evokes much, and the Wyeth ... they all reminded me of films I've seen, or articles I've read ... loved seeing them. Good luck to both Bernadette and Lissa - poetry is a real art ... cheers Hilary

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