said de kooning to his muse

Earlier this week, I asked my students to compare these two paintings:

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, The Spring, 1820–56

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, The Spring, 1820–56

 

Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1950

Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1950

 

There are so many ways to approach this comparison, but in honor of NaPoWriMo’s call for a tanka, I’d like to do so poetically: an account of the change in vision over the hundred-year interval between these two masterpieces (or “masterpieces,” if you’d prefer).

* * *

Said de Kooning to his muse

If you’d hold still—there,
so the light brushes your cheek
like a lover’s touch—
then I’ll mutilate your form
in its pendulous horror.

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