From RESURRECTION PARTY
By Michalle Gould:
SELF-PORTRAIT AS A SERIES OF PREPARATORY STUDIES FOR A NUDE BY MATISSE
The breasts hang low like fruit hoping
to be picked yet still on the branch,
While the body largely reclines, a letter K
lain on its side and slightly bent,
or in a less common pose, my back faces the viewer
so I resemble a pushed in O, my arms and legs drawn in,
like a turtle withdrawing far into its shell
to escape some predator that has come to suck;
We are become a rock. Our hearts lie hidden far
Below its skin. The artist scrapes my flesh onto his brush
but cannot touch what lies beneath, whatever he thinks—
nor can you, my dear, even as you read me.
SELF-PORTRAIT AS THE MAIDEN OF ATHENS
That day, I went forth to kill the Minotaur.
Since Theseus, they sent us all naked;
I had no ball of string; I had no sword.
For tools, instead, I had only the instruments
of my body: my nails for daggers, my hair for thread.
I had heard of his legendary cruelty;
I had heard how he killed without a word.
Then I came to the center and saw him.
His strong arms beckoned—and I cut the cord.
SELF-PORTRAIT AS A PAIR OF LOVEBIRDS
Opening their beaks, they thrust
their tongues out for one last kiss
before the long journey south—
like worms they each intend to drop
into the other’s hungry waiting mouth.
Today’s poems are from Resurrection Party, published by Silver Birch Press, copyright © 2014 by Michalle Gould, and appear here today with permission from the poet.
RESURRECTION PARTY concerns itself, almost to the point of obsession, with the question of how the imagination grapples with the fear of death. The collection intertwines religious and mythical subjects and themes with more fleshly concerns about the body and decay, presence and absence. It has been described as containing poems of “almost exquisite refinement, illuminated by the taut glow of sensuous prosody and imagery” and as “a deeply meditative collection at once intelligent, tender, and utterly human.” (From the Silver Birch Press website.)
Michalle Gould has been working on the poems that constitute Resurrection Party for almost 15 years. In that time, her poems and short stories have appeared in Slate, New England Review, Poetry, American Literary Review, The Texas Observer, and other journals. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a librarian, and is in the process of researching and writing a novel set in the North of England during the 1930s.
Editor’s Note: Michalle Gould has a deep and fearless understanding of the self. In her quest to write poems that grapple with life’s big questions—life and death, self-awareness, relationships—she is bold and unafraid. She views her own body as honestly as an artist would. Yet she understands truths about the self that no other can reveal: “The artist scrapes my flesh onto his brush / but cannot touch what lies beneath, whatever he thinks— / nor can you, my dear, even as you read me.”
In “Self Portrait as the Maiden of Athens” the poet re-examines the Greek myth of the minotaur from a female perspective. Here she notes that, unlike the male hero in the story, when the maiden faces the beast, “I had no sword. / For tools, instead, I had only the instruments / of my body: my nails for daggers, my hair for thread.” This concept translates into the larger role of women in the world, and the question of what few tools and resources we have traditionally been allowed.
SPS-beloved poet Louise Mathias writes that the terrain of Resurrection Party “is somewhere between body and spirit, life and death, intimacy and solitude, elegance and intuition. Possessing a sly humor coupled with a laser sharp awareness and assertion of how all is ephemeral, Resurrection Party accomplishes the rare: it makes even the big questions fresh.”