But the secrets of existence revealed to the painter
as he or she mixed the hues of the clouds that afternoon,
laboring to make the horizon straight, to divide the world
into above and below, placing a solitary woman in white,
just off center, the wind pressing her dress to her body,
the horizon passing behind her head, the same size as a distant ship,
two dark spots upon the horizon – did he or she include them?
Think, as I choose this shade, this line, so all forms are chosen?
Are my eyes not looking into the mirror of the maker?
Under the painting sit five lamps: a bone-white vase
with a white silk shade, a Mexican peacock candelabra,
a standing lamp of wrought iron and glass, and two stone votives
carved with elephants. Five sources of light, five women writing:
one with a hand to her forehead, bent over a black notebook,
one thinking, her chin cupped in her hands, one whose head tilts,
propped up by a fist, one on the white linen couch, elbows resting
on knees, bent over her paper on the coffee table, and one
leaning back in blue cushions, gazing out the glass door to the sea.
The sound in the room is as fragile as the lace of a dragonfly's wing.
I say it and it appears, in the colored glass of a Tiffany lamp in the corner.
There is only the whooshing of waves below, and the whispers of
pens across paper, a creak of a chair, an intake of breath, a sigh –
all the translucent music of the movement of air. I am here.
Listening, holding, being a vase, a votive on the altar to the maker
of mirrors within us, the wanting to see, to feel the waters pouring
through the tips of our fingers, having found instruments we can play,
tubes of imagination we can squeeze out and mix on our paper palettes.
Should I talk about the geraniums? How hard it is to look at them, the fear
of having to say what they are saying? How ecstatic they are, how daring,
how unsubtle, how loudly they sing with their fuchsias and scarlets,
fireworks of joy in all directions, calling out, "What is life, but the chance
to revel in beauty, be the artist, the model, the one in the mirror
and the one with the brush, to explode with creation, to dance
on the shore, to hold in awe and be held in awe, and let yourself bloom."
You see? You see how that sounds? But just think of Matisse, put the
flowers in a vase beside the odalisque, surrender, and let beauty sing.