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Study for Love’s Body

by Katherine Larson


I. Landscape with Yellow Birds

The theories of Love
have become tremulous and complicated.
The way snow falls or Saturn revolves
repeatedly around some distance
where space is nothing
yet still something that separates.

Never mind time. Caterpillars
have turned the fruit trees
into body bags. The children paint
the mandibles of fallen ones with
silver meant for nursery stars.
Without the immense responsibility
of sympathy, these small deaths
are nothing more than
artifice. Like a single magnolia
in a cut glass bowl
we have no idea where
our roots went so suddenly.


II. Architecture in Ruins

Third floor of the doll factory,
ferns suck carbon
and sharper chemicals from air
near the women working.

They’re hunched over tables
of warped wood. 
Half of everyone is painting
eyes and lashes on porcelain heads, the rest
are threading hands to sleeves.  

Outside in the courtyard
a smattering of doves rise.
Have you ever wanted to
kiss a stranger’s hands?


III. Gardens Without Bats or Moss 

Gauguin writes to Theo van Gogh that in his painting he wants to suggest
the idea of suffering—without ever explaining what kind.


IV. In Stone Archways

The light is spilt green milk, which is languorous
as the red monkey Gauguin painted

by the brown body of Anna
the Javanese. At the Chinese Market

I buy two red teacups and a can
of coconut milk. I think—

Gauguin wouldn’t know
how Anna loved that monkey

and sang to him late at night.
Everywhere the sea screams

at me. A great pink slab of octopus arm,
beside it, babies seasoned in orange spices.

Such symmetry! Surely they swam
through the night like thirsty

flowers. I think you had it right
when you said love is the mathematics

of distance. Split like a clam on ice,
I feel raw, half-eaten. I rot

in the cold blue of the ego,
the crushed velvet of Anna’s chair.

 

Katherine Larson’s first collection, Radial Symmetry, was recently selected by Louise Glück as winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets and will be published in 2011 by Yale University Press. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Notre Dame Review, and The Massachusetts Review, among other places. (10/2010)

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