May 2002

Terri Witek


Terri Witek's chapbook, Courting Couples, won the 2000 Center for Book Arts prize and a collection, Fools and Crows, is forthcoming from Orchises Press. Her book about Robert Lowell's revisions, Robert Lowell and Life Studies: Revising the Self, appeared from University of Missouri Press in 1993. 

Monsieur Degas  

Outside his room, the supply shops on Rue Victor Massé
droop under swinging scythes of rain. A used canvas
needs merely to be chosen, re-stretched and primed:

like this one, chronicling a bouffant-haired flirt
still ga-ga for something dear just past his shoulder.
Of course, like any style he's gotten older,

the models change (is it a grief he's never taken wife or lover?)
though not their arms, akimbo when they're tired,
or how they'll pull a blowsy towel along one hip.

He'd prefer both to keep and to alter all:
the new colors are both the hours deepening and the way
a lucky man proceeds, with time shivering in the vestibule,

ever more audaciously. Pauline has said he'd set afire
a whole ringed grove of easels—he'd shift
from one to another loosening blurs of hair,

and this was easier on a girl than stooping
to read the bottom of her bare right foot all morning
(if only Zoë, the housekeeper, had ever dusted!).

Monsieur would touch them just with chalk or brushes—
they were the weather he must step through to reach again
the mote-stunned studio he'd loved for twenty years

and where he'd already be fidgeting when she arrived
in cheap hat and bustle, wet parasol, and the skin
he'd daub with green today to make it modern, welcome.




Terri Witek: Poetry
Copyright © 2002 The Cortland Review Issue 20The Cortland Review