Louise Desert headshot

By Louise Mathias

And how to fill them
is the problem of cigarettes and paint.

First time I felt my undoing
was in front of

a painting—Sam Francis, I believe.

Oh, his bloomed out, Xanax-ed California.

I liked the word guard, but you know

we made each other
nervous, standing too close

for everyone concerned. All art being

a form of violence
as a peony
is violence.

Here you come

with your open hands.

Today’s poem previously appeared via the Academy of American Poets and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Louise Mathias grew up in England and Los Angeles. She is the author of two books of poems, Lark Apprentice, which won the New Issues Poetry Prize, and The Traps, released in 2013 from Four Way Books. She lives in Joshua Tree, a small town in California’s Mojave Desert.

Editor’s Note: As my faithful readers of this series know, I am a sucker for a poem with a killer ending. In today’s piece, it is the penultimate moment that takes my breath away: “All art being // a form of violence / as a peony / is violence.” What a stunning phrase. Followed by the gift of release, of promise: “Here you come // with your open hands.”

Once again I have Dr. Poet Jenny Stella to thank for bringing today’s poem to my attention. Viva la poesia!

Want to read more by Louise Mathias?
Verse Daily
The Traps from Four Way Books
The Rumpus
The Offending Adam
Everyday Genius


  1. This one is made for re-reading time and again ~~~ And as for hands, my hit off of them (holy hallowed sacred hands, reaching from the heart of It All) is that we (at least I) need another pair.


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