After Bernard Malamud
The picture completes itself.
It assumes a wholeness: the man and the woman together,
a hint of fear in hereyes, the tightness in his gut
cleverly suggested by the dark lines in the neck.
The mystery revealed in paint.
‘The picture is a marvel,’ says Esmeralda,
‘you’ve caught me as I am.’
And she kisses him.
But what would she know?
Ludovico says: ‘Of course, the picture is a marvel.
You’ve caught the strangeness of her beauty
- what does it matter
if you’ve made yourself a tad too handsome?
Some will talk about Lucian Freud,
but I say you’ve surpassed him
in applying his techniques.
Others might say there is an excess of darkness:
a soupcon of lemon, a trace of crimson
might make the difference. But it’s up to you.’
‘Piss off!’ says Esmeralda.
And when Ludovico leaves, they go to bed.
And in the morning he wonders what to paint next.
Maybe Ludovico with his sneaky eyes.
And he opens the curtains on the first light
and he thinks: maybe the man was right,
or at least not completely wrong.
And he takes a soupcon of lemon
a smudge of chrome yellow
a squidge of vermillion
a splash of magenta
and a whole tube of burnt sienna.
And when Esmeralda finds him,
leaning over the sink,
he has opened a vein with a sharpened palette knife:
more than a trace of crimson.