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Donna James



Eye level with brushstrokes, 

tripping alarms—that close— 

I study how mixtures of pigment 

with oil, egg, water 

arrive on canvas, wood, paper, 

examine paintings that draw me near,

cast me back. 


Color and shape impel me to detect how 

Friedrich’s tiny, distant fire 

punctuates its flames 

with a single arc of two fine hairs;    

and a thousand flaxen leaves  

are positioned, one by one, as by God’s hand 

for man to hold in awe. While Beckmann 

pulls a thick brush down 

in rectangular blocks, building     

into being the side of his own face, 

theatrical, certain.


I parse through layers, searching 

for origins of that shimmer 

rising to a surface, making silk. 


I enter a new room; Dürer 

is there, ten steps away, staring at me—

across five-hundred years 

an emanation from wood 

courses through my flesh, 

mind and body seized.

Paint—wielded by wand.

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