Ani Gjika

Portrait of a Couple on the Grass

on a photograph of George and Mary Oppen



They have survived one another.

The earth holds them the way it holds

children: gladly and curiously affected.


His silver head piles its years on her lap.

His body seems borrowed, already an absence.

Her right hand maps his temples, his forehead.


What does the grass ask for, and the Japanese

knotweed behind them? His hand inside his pocket,

what is it holding, or her eyes under those glasses?


Here, he will sleep forever

and the shadows of trees will never

stretch long enough to enter their bodies.


Here, everything is an instant of tension –

shapes continuously touching, perching

so that one’s weight never cancels the other’s.




“Portrait of a Couple on the Grass” first appeared in Seneca Review, Fall 2010, Vol. 40, Nr. 2.