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After a portrait of Madame Recamier by Jacques-Louis David, 1800

 Looking at us through the prism of her own interiority,
    the almond-sliver of her face alert, intelligent,
      she has the rich interior,
   what Freud tried to elicit from his patients
years later, cluttering his studio like an archeological dig
   of the subconscious, as though each silver-inlaid lockbox,
      each medallion, each figurine, sword,
   might correspond to an inner trope, buried deep
in the womb of the mind. The mind, he knew, could be mapped,
   like the world with its intoxicating scents, ships sailing
      always for the east, one hand fingering
   the fringe of occidental drape where a patient reclines,
her subconscious rising like beaded oil
   to the surface. But here in the painting, this woman
      needs none of it, and although the painter has elongated her
   into an elegance the body rarely possesses, she glances
at us only briefly, before turning back the blank wall.
   What a simple set he's devised for his model!
      The only props: a daybed to echo the curvature of spine,
   two cushions, one a faded silk-blue, the other mustard-seed,
and an oil lamp to suggest the Far East, but otherwise the room is bare;
   this is no harem, this is not the artist's private thrill.
      No, here we have a woman whose mind is untouchable
   pure and clear agate, the top layers luminous,
the understrata seen to none but her.
   When the aura of theater lights fills her mind
      and she feels the heat-flutter of bodies move across her stage,
   she needs nothing and no one from this world
where men ask women to sit for them in fantasy,
   and she makes of that interiority this vibrancy--figures slipping
      down hallways to smaller and smaller rooms,
   and beyond the corridors opening onto miniature
bricked pathways, beyond the swinging bridges, beyond porticoes
   and creaking porch steps, her self
 is a filament of sunlight
      on a splintered oak table where a vase of tulips
   glistens by a curtain's raveled hem. 
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Author:Bensko, John
Publication:Prairie Schooner
Article Type:Poem
Date:Sep 22, 2012
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