Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Women of Rubens

Giantesses, female fauna,
naked as the rumbling of barrels,
They sprawl in trampled beds,
sleep with mouths agape for crowing.
Their eyes have fled into the depths
and penetrate to the very core of glands
from which yeast seeps into the blood.

Daughters of the Baroque. Dough rises in kneading-troughs,
baths are asteam, wines glow ruby,
piglets of cloud gallop across the sky,
trumpets neigh an alert of the flesh.

O meloned, O excessive ones,
doubled by the flinging off of shifts,
trebled by the violence of posture,
you lavish dishes of love!

Their slender sisters had risen earlier,
before dawn broke in the picture.
No one noticed how, single file, they
had moved to the canvas's unpainted side.

Exiles of style. Their ribs all showing,
their feet and hands of birdlike nature.
Trying to take wing on bony shoulder blades.

The thirteenth century would have given them a golden
the twentieth--a silver screen.
The seventeenth had nothing for the flat of chest.

For even the sky is convex,
convex the angels and convex the god--
mustachioed Phoebus who on a sweaty
mount rides into the seething alcove.

-Wislawa Szymborska
Translated from Polish by Magnus J. Krynski and Robert A. Maguire


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