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The Amphibology of Horror

Aubrey Beardsley is drawing his sister as Salome,
deceased, his paper pinned to a light draughtsman's board.
Low-sconced candles a third of the way toward him from its farther edge,
raised a little to make a gentle angle, drip.
He is wearing narrow pajama trousers, long feet
hooked into rungs of a high stool. He draws his sister
propped with pillows to raise her right shoulder on which
her head (dead) crowns the arm which dangles (drips?)
down in sections, right buttock slightly off the sofa
to get the line pure. An imagined Satyr,
beard a foil to improbably pointed asses' ears
cradles her knee with arms reaching past and in
and smiles across the paper at the black-clad servant,
masked, bald head with frizz of hair like James Levine,
who takes the place of pillows at her ribs and head.
He thinks she's the most beautiful thing in the world. She is
(her nether limbs in black a decadent French poem),
the long bones so like his hand now drawing her.
He feels a touch of lust (who wouldn't?) for his sister
whose left breast punctuated by a nipple feeds
back on itself to meet the line for ribs, plink,
that meets the belly at the crease where navel lives.
India ink and pen, a pot of Chinese white
(for mistakes) with a brush fine but not too fine
or white won't flow unless too thinned to cover black.
Fine knives to scrape the paper (which is thick), in case.
Her lovely feet I interrupt with Satyr's bush
his prick invisible behind a powder puff
foregrounded, its spindled handle almost like his tail,
up, right, her upper arms more languorously muscled
than his -- does she lift boxes at the theater?
her hair marcelled, a hyacinthine fleece of curls,
mouth dark, almost heart-shaped over fox-point chin.
She drapes naked like brocade, a swag of Mabel.
In bed she moves or lies still. I know her curves,
draw them as if. My logo's upside-down hearts
interrupt my Satyr's horizontal stare
though patently beyond him on the picture plane,
keep it. No hand is visible except hers
almost touching the egghead servant's satin knees
(the Satyr feels her foot between his warm thighs)
the posture from a Rubens oil sketch on copper
of Christ taken down from the cross after,
mine identical, I'd say, in feel, a body
infinitely valuable gently handled
as if it were asleep, being put asleep
in some space more caring than the one it left --
my ink's gone out. The new is less evaporated,
hence likelier to throw a blot from quill's point
so -- I'll stop tonight and let the ink dry
and letter FIN in white on the powder-box
or cut it in, even if it's daylight.


Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997

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