Linda Pastan


Three Skulls on an Oriental Rug: Cezanne, Oil on Canvas

Whose skulls are these,
and isn't it dread
that informs our pleasure

in this canvas?
A still life, we're told,
is simply the marriage

of form and color to create
a design—a razzle dazzle circuit
between eye and heart.

So if the objects
are skulls it shouldn't matter,
although we each carry

our own skeleton with us,
skull and all,
up the marble staircase

and into this gallery.
To leach the personal
from the abstract

is a different kind of death.
What we see is more
than a brilliant oriental shape

bleeding its dense
flowery purples and reds
under three ovoid objects.



Linda Pastan's twelfth book of poems, Queen of a Rainy Country, was published by Norton in 2006 and is now in paperback. She was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991-1995 and has been a finalist twice for the National Book Award. In 2003 she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.



Published in Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 2009.


Read more by this author:
Linda Pastan: Whitman Issue
Linda Pastan
Linda Pastan: Wartime Issue
Linda Pastan: DC Places Issue
Linda Pastan: Evolving City Issue