The Brücke Choir
It’s not what they are singing, it’s that they are singing.
—from a comment on Georg Baselitz’s painting “The Brücke Choir”
In the museum the young girl swung her mother’s long-handled purse.
The docent gasped as she cycloned toward Art. Toward something
photo-realist, I remember—a kitchen sink full of gleaming, foodless dishes.
Photo-realism relies on shine—chrome edges, curves of faucets,
cars and counters. Surfaces that catch the light the way wanting
makes us catch our breath. Your hand along the polished railing
of my hip. A photograph on an adjacent wall showed another kitchen,
Eudora Welty’s: her table lined with jars of preserves and honey, tins
of tea and sugar, an aluminum ice tray, fringed curtains, linoleum.
Yellowed light sifts like talcum, but it’s deceptive. Beside her window
something is plugged into the socket, but that something is outside
the picture, and the cord is naked as flesh between garter and stocking:
snapshot of skin an old lady tucks between wash-worn, practical garments.
I scrub my kitchen sink, wash the cloudy glasses, turn them mouth-down
to dry in the drainboard. Out the window the nuthatch feeds bottom-up,
beak drilling the pine for insects. I know a man and woman who share blood
and lust—a libretto of restraint. They like to bone fish in the ocean.
Once the boat reeled off shoals into surf. She would’ve fallen overboard
but he held her across the chest. Picture the tongues of her nipples
through wet cotton, the black hairs on his arm wired to each chillbump,
the tails of the vertically-feeding bonefish trilling above the breakers,
the unswimmable current. Later, in the kitchen, cleaning and cooking fish,
the fork tines lifting the xylophone of bones from the steaming flesh.
They stopped at this, just as the girl in the museum stopped, so the docent
could breathe safely again. But we play these stops.
Today you drop into my kitchen and catch me wide-mouthed
in the act of singing. I believe too much in drowning.
A curtain of sunlight across the window.
The guttural faucet, a full-force choir.
The aluminum music sucked through the unstopped sink.
The Brücke Choir was originally published in The Greensboro Review (Winter 1997).