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Poems by Leslie Adrienne Miller
Outliving the Lyric Moment
Related Poems
by Catherine Barnett
Related Prose
Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art
Other Ekphrastic Poems
Purgatorio, Canto X
by Dante Alighieri
The Iliad, Book XVIII, [The Shield of Achilles]
by Homer
a woman peeling apples, with a small child
by Pattie McCarthy
All those Attempts in the Changing Room!
by Anne Stevenson
Archaic Torso of Apollo
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Die Muhle Brennt--Richard
by Richard Matthews
Hagar in the Wilderness
by Tyehimba Jess
In a Blue Wood
by Richard Levine
Incomplete Lioness
by Linda Bierds
Joseph Cornell, with Box
by Michael Dumanis
Landscape With The Fall of Icarus
by William Carlos Williams
M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942
by Philip Levine
Mural with HUD Housing & School Bus (1980)
by Adrian Matejka
Museum Guard
by David Hernandez
Ode on a Grecian Urn
by John Keats
On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art
by Frank O'Hara
On Seeing the Elgin Marbles
by John Keats
On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Seeing All the Vermeers
by Alfred Corn
Stealing The Scream
by Monica Youn
The Abolition of Reality [Georges Seurat]
by Adriano Spatola
The Family Photograph
by Vona Groarke
The Mad Potter
by John Hollander
The Man with the Hoe
by Edwin Markham
The Painting
by John Balaban
The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers
by Andrew Marvell
The Shield of Achilles
by W. H. Auden
To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles
by John Keats
War Photograph
by Kate Daniels
Why knowing is (& Matisse's Woman with a Hat)
by Martha Ronk
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Photograph of People Dancing in France

by Leslie Adrienne Miller

It's true that you don't know them--nor do I 
know what I wanted their movement to say 
when I tucked them in an envelope with words

for you. I thought it was my life caught 
in a warm night. I believed myself loved 
by the wan and delicate man you see dancing

against the drop-off behind them all. But you 
can't see that they are on a mountain, that 
just beyond the railings is a ravine, abrupt

and studded with thorn, beyond it, a river, 
dry bed of stone that, by the time you take 
the photo from the envelope, will have filled

with green foam of cold torrents from high 
in the Alps. This is France, you think, as you look 
at the people dancing, but there is nothing of France

visible save one branch of a tree close enough 
to catch in their hair. I could tell you that by the time 
you see this picture, the young girl with the long jaw

launching her bared navel at the lens will have bedded 
the man you're afraid of losing me to. There is food 
on the table, French food, and so more beautiful for that,

green olives in brine, a local cake in paper lace, 
sliced tomatoes that look in the flash like flesh 
with their red spill of curve and seed. I could tell you

they grew not twenty meters from the table 
where you see them, that I picked them one day 
with the small woman who bares her breasts

in this photo because she is about to leave us
and doesn't know any other way to say she is sad. 
They're alive is all you'll say of the scene, which

is to say you feel you're not. It is November 
by the time I've thought to send you the photo, 
by the time I feel myself ready to part with the image.

By then, the woman of the manifest breasts has left us, 
and the one with the dark eyes who loved her 
has darker eyes. Very soon after this dancing stopped,

the man with the hollow cheeks took the girl 
of the ripe navel to his bed because he, like you, 
is so afraid of dying, he invites it daily, to try him.

The girl's last lover was a boy on heroin in Cairo 
with the possible end of them both asleep in his blood,
and now too in the blood of the lover I wanted

to save. Because you are married to a woman 
who insists on wearing her dead sister's clothes, 
you understand that while I am not in this picture,

I am in this picture. Know that I need never see it again 
to see: the incessant knot of the girl's navel is a fist, 
an oily wad of sweet-sour girl flesh, a ball of tissue

I twisted and crushed all of that evening, and since. 
You refuse to remember her name, or his, because you want 
to be my lover again, and the others must be kept

abstract. They were alive you say again, not more, 
because the heart is nothing if not a grave. You want me 
because your wife holds out her familiar wrist to you

in the terrible sleeve of her dead sister's dress, 
because I reach for the gaunt cheek of the man 
who worships at the luminous inch of belly on the girl

who lifts her arms from the body of a boy none of us 
will ever know in Cairo, the girl, who dead center 
in the photo, lifts the potent, mocking extravagance
of her flash-drenched arms, and dances for us all.

Copyright © 2002 by Leslie Adrienne Miller. Reprinted from Eat Quite Everything You See with permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.
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