Two Poems by Charlotte Friedman

Grace Hartigan, Marilyn, 1962, Oil on canvas, Collection of Hart and Beatrice Perry.

Channeling Grace Hartigan

I’m letting go of a life set out for me. A bloodletting,
this letting go my blood. Appetites for brush and canvas whetted
by a muse, spur in my side. I’ve spurned excess, envisioned
how color knows truth, am emboldened, beholden to my muse,
my curse, cursory tendencies of stroke-slash, violent,
virulent. I paint. Through ice-cold, isolated, must catch up,
catsup-water my soup. Splatters of ink, my inklings
are spattered. I scorn tradition, trade guarantees for guesses,
canvas messes of cadmium, viridian and violet, ochre aching
to gold, this matter is mine to divine, my soup to slurp-slosh,
no slip-shod reverse to the past. I am painting my life, a future
flaunt of yellow, flagrant in a folio forever
for those who might look.

Waking Early

Waking early in Paris, anticipation
mingles with doubt. Quickly
I draw myself—naked,
reflected in the mirror then paint
slowly, use only yellow, color
stains on cold-pressed paper.
I sip coffee, lay myself
out to dry.

Decades ago, I trailed after my father
to worship Cezanne and Van Gogh, watched
in these French cafés, him sketching
patrons, the woman with a dog, two men smoking—
Pied Piper with a pencil, stained
khakis, hair uncombed, breathless
with excitement, a mad man
gesticulating, crazed
by his visions.

Dazed, I rinse my brush,
cover the paints and reach
for a sweater, loose yarns
unraveling, unraveling.

Charlotte Friedman is a poet, translator and teacher who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and now lives in New Jersey. Her nonfiction book, The Girl Pages, was published by Hyperion, and her poetry in journals such as Connecticut River Review, Intima and Timberline Review. Her translations of Ch’ol poetry (with Carol Rose Little) have been published in World Literature Today, The Arkansas International and elsewhere.

Appears In

Issue 19

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