10 Sept 2022
After Odalisque a la Culotte Rouge
by Henri Matisse
Henri has been painting me all day
here where I lie, lead-heavy legs
spread and tucked in these loose red pants,
in the room with wild wallpaper.
Oh! For water! Just a sip
or drop against my lips!
The wren in the sunny yard,
warm milk in a cup at sunrise,
iris blooming like birds; now
they want watering. For dinner:
fish again? Fish have water
aplenty, or they die. Oh!
for water! Just a sip! Henri,
when will you be done?
Can we take a break? I should set the rice
to cooking, pour water,
water on the grains and butter too!
Water. Oh! For water in a pot,
or glass, or cup, or creek, river,
Behind the poem...
The painting Odalisque a la Culotte Rouge by Henri Matisse hangs in the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris. Visiting there in 2019, my knees aching, I rested on a bench in front of this painting while my son explored the museum. Matisse is well known for his fauvism art, pursuing the purity of human beings, infusing his work with Asian influences. He often used the woman Odalisque as a subject – and it occurred to me that the model who reclined for this painting might've been thirsty after a long period of posing.