An Obsession with de Kooning
Terri Brown-Davidson

Swilling booze in bed. Shadows from the window,
from a moonless night, rise and stream toward me;
black but rimmed, they travel across blankets,
some unidentifiable spot of gold inside them,
so I wonder if their bright centers
are leached from a streetlamp or the gilded mouth
of a baby yawning beneath the lamp, a baby tilted higher
in his mother’s arms, the baby swathed in motheaten blue blankets
transmogrifying as I watch, so I see, in that gaping mouth,
the stubbled teeth of de Kooning in his Dark & Drunken Years—
some called it “his prime,” when the unibreasted women
bared their fangs, ripped small red chunks from my heart
though I was still a stumpy child,
ugly-braided and short, sheltered behind a schooldesk,
a girl boys spat upon. And I grew
to be a recluse: true. A woman who cracks books for company,
their cardboard spines snapping “Hello.”

Their dusty pages whisper volumes
as I pass, one hip gimpy, not enough JD
to ease the transition to Once-Swooning Lass
who fell in love with de Kooning, who swam
deep and dark in his mind
until every book I clasped murmured of my obsession,
the rot of the years creeping black and pungent over me,
every passion requiring its concubine.


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