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Painting One Another

(Paula Modersohn-Becker)

By Sue Cowing

Papa, you're right about Paula,

she is dangerous. See here,

she won't have anything in me

but greatness. What a race this will be!

Watch how she walks

straight out in the storm, toes first,

hands cupping the air, the pull

of a swimmer. And I call after,

through my red beard.


Sometimes all I can do
is paint her, but she doesn't fit
into landscape. I'm obliged
to paint her her way,
close up in the garden,
intimate and large.
She looks straight at me
as I work and all I see
is my small figure in her eye.
I finish quickly: "Paula
with Yellow Immortelle," O.


Then for a lark
she paints me, too, taking me
from me into her own vision, 

whose countenance above the wet, dark clothes
is turned toward the reddening
sun. Holy man of the moor
sees nothing, everything, endures.
"Otto Crossing the River Hamme," PMB.
It's my red beard she loves.





from Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn 1989

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