A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Second Thought

The woman aflame in the window, the girl wielding a lamp, and the grieving mother all share the same face: the artist’s secret lover. Today Vanity Fair tells me it’s so.

A small shame I have suffered these eleven years: in courting you I appropriated an anti-war masterpiece for my own erotic ends.

Is it possible to imagine more than sadism in the artist’s wartime portrayals of his mistress? Was it a sign of his commitment (to her? to the anti-fascist cause?) that Marie-Therese’s multiplied face is the one on which he refracted the suffering of the bombed Basque village?

I wrote you a ghazal entitled “Our Affair.” The epigraph named Guernica. You read it on my couch beneath a framed reproduction. (Tonight the couch and print are gone but you are near.) Here is one of its couplets:

A bird tears a vowel from its gut—
your hand clamps down on my mouth.

And another:

A light bulb explodes—
our limbs elongate and swell.

I’m wondering if I can transfer this shame into a form of knowing—not only the lure of the victim, the cruelty of the artist—but something more frightening—something like the fragility of all commitments.


  1. the fourth stanza makes me spinny. GUERNICA! oh no she didn't!

  2. also I like this poem's shape.

  3. The heart wants what it wants! Terrifying & amazing!!