C. E. Perry graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1992 and Dartmouth Medical School in 1999. Her work has been published in Southern Poetry Review, Pool, Southeast Review, and GSU Review. Her first book of poetry, Night Work, is forthcoming from Sarabande Press. She lives in San Francisco with her family.
The baby pulls itself around the mother’s breast,
a curving need. Light comes to the mother’s face.
It is the countermelody. The angled prow of her
arm, her unified movement, her yes—this painter
obeys the laws of gentleness, of coping. She knows
how the human body is broken down into a trellis
of lines. She knows, for instance, how one’s mouth
will be drawn shut after the funeral. She knows
how one’s abortion is a three-dimensional procedure
of scratched lines around the soft red pip.
When emptiness enters a painting, there is depth.
The eye needs time to dissolve. For these
figures to stand out against the background,
she creates a series of interruptions. With shape
and hue, one must always risk losing control.
Thank you for the unexpected breaks and mistakes
that helped this woman paint. Thank you for
the fever, the drizzle, the standing still. Thank you
for the incomplete heart that knows no valid
boundary. Thank you for luck’s endless changing
of position and for the oblique progress of failure.
Thank you for two legs walking, for the distance
between branches, for the vertical, for the horizontal
for the confusion, for the vista, for the wall.
Thank you for the violent red center of memory,
for the thin economy of the painter’s wrist,
and for the baby’s mouth, opening.
Published in THE GSU REVIEW, 2007