after Gustave Courbet
Save me—I’m caught in a net of quandary.
No sooner am I dressed than I am being taken
out of my clothes. Or are they helping me
into them? It appears I am being attired
for marriage, one of death’s deft hands.
Around me a clutch of women painted stuck like doors:
forever two hoist a sheet (some say a shroud),
one is drying or bathing my feet, another
brings a tureen to the table, or is she removing it?
The problem is art’s, but I’m in the midst.
Stockings, victuals, so-called shroud—all for me?
These women, are they what I was and will be?
Am I victim? Being prepped to be gazed at?
For some prone position? For a him?
Help me. It appears I can’t go forward or
backward. I’m awkward. Unfinished. I hold
a mirror as though approaching a gorgon,
a mirror that only I can look in. I have heard
the dead cannot face mirrors, nor can
the dead keep a mirror up. There. Breath.
I fog it with my breath. Oh, what is this sound—
stiff brushes turning into baffled hisses . . .
how my depiction’s deemed “mysterious.” But, isn’t
everyone’s? This miss tells two sure things: I’m to be wed.
My paint is drying. Guess whether I am dead or dying.