by Penny Dyer


Instead, look at the painting so close
you can’t see it.
Not the image the artist willed onto the bleached
canvas skeleton. Forget what you see, what you think
he meant you to see.

Instead, see the skin,
stained in colored oils
not unlike the cleft above your left breast,
an earlobe, maybe the tender flesh behind a knee.

Look too, at the pigment flaking
green above a gold, brush-stroked autumn,
the dry craze on a stretched cloth
like the crackled lines on the backs of your hands.

Look too, at your child’s face
lined in a parchment portrait of someone
you wanted to be.
See where the paint flecks off
in tiny dismal pieces down around the sycamore’s hips,
like the fierce sweat of an autumn war, or
the sound of blood.

Look at your fingertips,
or the plowed fields of your palms.
Everything man touches,
the shined marble of museum floors,
rhombuses of wiped windows,
the swept sidewalk of your neighbor’s home—
all of them, if you look close enough
are matched fingerprints.

-Originally appeared in Chattanooga Writers Guild Anthology 2004 www.chattanoogawritersguild.org