Georgia O’Keeffe, “From the Faraway, Nearby,” 1937 by Camille Carter

Georgia O’Keeffe, “From the Faraway, Nearby” 1937

Make no bones about it—
or better yet, make bones:
sandborne, sun-bleached, bald-faced bones
naked but for a Southwest sky.

I began picking up bones
because there were no flowers.

More than enough to fill your pockets, a treasure
trove—in plain sight—atop sage-covered plains.

In the picture taken by your lover, you pose with them—
nestling them, caressing them, pressing them:
brush of bone against your cheekbone. Your eyes rolled back
in ecstasy—momentarily, you were someplace else.

Place was a metaphysics; the word “skeleton” meant “home.”
He will not follow you there. You return alone
to New Mexico, to your catacomb, curio cabinet stuffed
with canvases, with corpses.

It’s the summer of 1936 when you receive his letter:
I worry … the landscape makes you lonely … 
But it is his logic that makes you lonely. You will not
bother to reply. Outside at dusk,

you paint the desert, the broken fence, a single
chicken bone. Suddenly you are struck
to think how elemental they turned out to be,
your life’s preoccupations.

Where in the prism of  the painting antlers bloom,
as ascendant and gnarled as branches,
sits the alien skull of the once-majestic stag,
his eye-sockets hollow but for your projections.

One night you dream you see yourself as if from far away,
asleep and slumped on sand dunes the color of cream.
Walking backwards you watch with fascination as your body
fades into a hillock’s hump, is stifled by a sun-drenched sheet.


Camille Carter, 1991-

© 2021 Camille Carter
Georgia O’Keeffe “From the Faraway, Nearby” 1937

Painting: "From the Faraway, Nearby" (1937) by Georgia O'Keeffe

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