Their Tranquil Lives

Their Tranquil Lives won a First Prize, the 2010 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award.

Oh lost world of Gustav Klimt,
the jeweled and doe-eyed women
swam the walls and ceilings
of pre-Holocaust Vienna’s
ornate opera. Women’s compliance
did not need to be stated,
was pink and white
and not hidden by drapes.

World War I had not yet happened.
The city was a beaker spilling over
with bits of gold applied
which one could drink
or pour into, carefully
lavish and lucky.

Outside the window apples
shone in their dappled garden.
The women had proud
names, and pregnancies.
They rose like mermaids through
their tranquil lives,
upward and passionate.
The insides of their wrists
were white and still unmarked,
smoothed with kisses:

Vienna before History—
Each morning was a waking: pond
drenched in light; the path,
perfumed with little flowers, stitched
white butterflies and the painter-god
creating first-words; a mosaic
of forbidden.

As if memory
would tapestry forever
voyeur-painter’s studios, light-
drenched: the livid golden hair
and modeled arms and bracelets lifting:
perfect breasts; rounded nutcracker
thighs and, ready for the
taking, the ripe fruit.

As if the comet,
pleasure, would never
burn itself to ash; the dross,
once-glorious color
seeping , leaching, thinly
staining Europe.
Oh much punished and
lost worlds of Gustav
Klimt, while you stroked
undertone rose-ochre tints
to flesh, your century,
demented, waited
for its urgent re-inventions;
voice-over, take-over
newsreel/newsprint narratives:
blunt black- and- white.

Copyright Kathleen Spivack

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