Finally, a New Gaze by Aza Pace

After the painting Circe by Alice Pike Barney


In almost every painting, she goes naked
or at least topless, wields herself

and her softness like a blade—
may beauty strike you down.

I can admire that. But this is more
like it, this windswept woman

cradling her pig companion
on a grey beach they own together.

She bares her teeth around a growl
and stares flatly out,

like a tiger too unthreatened to attack.
Here too, she is naked,

but with this supreme indifference
I can’t help but envy.

Smell the salt of her body,
hear her breathe in the wind.

Maybe it took a woman to paint her
like this, so at home in herself

and waiting for no one.
The rough brush strokes of real living.

Don’t just look, I tell myself—
finally, here is a way to be.

Aza Pace’s poems appear in The Southern Review, Copper Nickel, New Ohio Review, Passages North, Mudlark, Bayou, and elsewhere. She is the winner of two Academy of American Poets University Prizes and an Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Poetry. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Houston and is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of North Texas.