He stands by a river and all those women,
his desire still thick as confection.
Yes now there’s a skull on the table,
in the flowery still lifes with spilling
pears, the bowl of sugar he couldn’t touch,
even fulfillment a threat leaving him
tasteless with a dry tongue.
But those bathers tall as angels,
his genius has never been so naked
despite the critics, wineglasses in hand,
the insulted townspeople telling him go,
the petty loneliness of fighting
his wife and son. When it’s finally over,
the past with its wonder and squander
just an old man pissing in the dark,
he wakes and it starts again, the hours
spent on a single stroke, the need to see
a thing like he’s touching it but with his brush
even as the capillaries in his eyes burst
as if with an excess of vision
because he could never quite properly share it,
afflicted with the need
which finally turned on him, turned him
into numb limbs and leaky valves,
a ponderous slurry of bones and mud.
Despite a lifetime of work it remains
almost all inside, the sweetness
of it, an old bitter man dying of it
like the world despite its anguished fury,
always in the end a plate of apples,
a little sunlit mountain in the distance.
David Moolten‘s most recent book, Primitive Mood (2009), won the T. S. Eliot Award from the Truman State University Press. He lives & writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.