The painter wants to say she was the speechless grass
obscuring the doe’s tangle of ankles,
but she was not grass.
She’d forced certain realities into being;
for instance, the fawn. She’d refused to paint it
as it was, speckled red
with its mother’s death—alone,
nursing the air.
Her paint has unmade palpable moments
from which the body should wrench.
Is this a moral failing? Is her art unethical?
Look at her.
The life-bright doe standing her ground
in the oceanic grass.
The fallen wall, war’s end, in the foreground.
Her fawn suckling.
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Gabrielle Bates currently lives in Seattle, where she works for Open Books: A Poem Emporium and co-hosts the podcast The Poet Salon. The recipient of support from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Princeton Poetry Festival, her poems have appeared or will soon in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and Buzz Words: Poems About Insects (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series), among other journals and anthologies. You can connect with her at www.gabriellebat.es or on Twitter (@GabrielleBates).
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