Beaux Arts

They knew something about pleasure, too,                           
those painters—how well they understood                   
it may be compounded                                           
of the simplest elements, the merest trace
of water or light.                                                             
Courbet's L'Origine du monde, for instance.            
The bedclothes are thrust aside
and a woman's fleshy thighs                                               
sprawl across the canvas toward you
as you approach.                                                

Courbet studies his nude with the diligence                            
of a lover. And lets you see         
in the reddish fur
at the body's threshold
a hint of wet 

like the dab of white in the iris                                                        that lights the eye.

-- first published (as “The Origin of the World”) in Literary Imagination

listen Listen to Chana Bloch reading "Beaux Arts"