As if it were a bolero she strung around her neck
when she wanted death to come close, but not to claim her,
cool feel of the skull against her collarbone,
dried white roses at her breast, milky whiteness
a reminder of the mothering she had not done
except to mix the paints as lovingly as a mother
mashes carrots, peas, and potatoes, swirl of the eating
palate spoon fed to baby, satiated on canvas.

How often had cattle slipped their skins
in that desert, vultures stripping the carcass and leaving
bones to the artist dressed in a palette of black
linen as if she were death’s handmaiden, only
to make the beast live again, resurrected
and nailed to a velvet ribbon, talisman to the music
of dried roses and sun-bleached koans, absent lovers
and adobe stones, a brushstroke’s light, persistent rhythm.

Andrea Bates’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Evening Street, Bellowing Ark, The Wanderlust Review, Main Street Rag, Cutthroat, The Asheville Poetry Review, and Natural Bridge. Her first chapbook, Origami Heart, was released by Toadlily Press in 2010.


1 thought on “#66 GEORGIA O’KEEFE’S COW’S SKULL WITH CALICO ROSES, 1931 by Andrea Bates

  1. Andrea – Thank you so much. This is a stunningly lovely poem. Such vivid images – painting a picture of a picture and all the back story that goes with it.

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