Painting Lessons at Lucia’s

Into the hooded hours of your gray and erudite house I came.

From the street (the street that rambled
with all its buds, the taxis
that blazed, the manholes
--troubadors), from it
my eyes scaled the trelliswork
to the top floor
until the violet flowers opened
at the crisp iron rungs,
a frail fringe
fathered by the rain.
Inside, I painted still lifes of furniture
time and again: rustic chairs,
red, dimpled tablecloths, cerulean
dishes, vases of mimosa. The brown
and succulent soap, plump and glowing
with an odor of soul in it.
Stockings winding like strands of Titian’s women
over the railing
of the bathtub.
You, nervous with that austere paintbrush,
furious for accuracy, chaste,
merciless--your “damn good” when I caught
the likeness of my gorgeous cousin stung me
from the craggy gullies
and the tidal forests
of the body.

It rained, and there was never any music, and the wooden
surfaces, and tiled, and porcelain, were chilly
in the afternoon solstice. Sometimes you posed,
hair abristle like a wild and brown zinnia.
Your eyes flashed behind their ricepaper.
Out the French doors were the gardens,
green and bearded, sheltered
by the trees. The brick building growing
behind them faced me
with a wise and certain permanence.
I put it in my clotted notebook and learned it
better and better over the years.