sits for Alice Neel again,
the sun, long bent on the sill,
now stenciling his body through old lace.
She cleans up his ankles from last week,
seeing to the skin’s enraged green
and a yellow, laid into with a knife,
that looks like what wells at a lantern base.
Isn’t it a little on the garish side, he asks her?
I guess that’s what happens, she answers
when one shares enough in the world’s suffering.
Her kitchen is overtaken with clock
ticks, the cat licking up this oiliest of spills.
She steals everything within arm’s length—
from sink trap or counter top, food cart or stoop.
All for the least of her brothers. But least of all art.
She’s now gracing his scar with more red.
Mark feels air-sick, nearly spoiled
though he never speaks of it, peeks.
Even Alice likening him to something
ill-kept and compositionally inept
but too ripe to kill, offer up for a fee.
A cigarette coils into regret. This one bee,
done at the window box, rushes for his throat.
Light, while more telling, celestially fit,
is always lent us, Alice once let him in on,
and darkness, while nothing more than
a nuisance, this dry run for the afterlife,
will be there to cradle us, night or no night.
She finishes up his toe. He shifts on his cushion.
Outlines Mark in black till he’s lacking for nothing.
And where her brush stalls the longest
the shadows cool. But even these never last.
Alice lifts up his hands and acts touched—
the knuckles, now inflated to taffy twists,
kewpie pink, and fingers, stump blue,
fattened up on bar peanuts and gin.
Color relocates, takes up where it’s asked.
And shape’s where ash has put up with spit.
Mark? He does well not to tip over, soil himself,
his loins pitted against themselves, humming.
I could stop here, Alice threatens him,
and you’d be fussed over enough, yes, sufficient,
but I’d rather you tearing up, at your most unashamed.