Linda Gregerson

(August 5, 1950 / Illinois)

Bleedthrough - Poem by Linda Gregerson

(Helen Frankenthaler, 1969)
1.


As when, in bright daylight, she closes
her eyes
but doesn’t turn her face away,

or—this is more like it—closes her eyes
in order
to take the brightness in,

and the sun-struck coursing of blood through the
lids
becomes an exorbitant field to which

there is
no outside,
this first plague of being-in-place, this stain

of chemical proneness, leaves so little
room
for argument. You’d think

the natural ground of seeing when we see
no object
but the self were rage.



2.


My daughter has a trick now of composing
her face
and her shoulders and arms in a terrible be-

seeching shape—it all
takes just
the blink of an eye—I love

you, Mama, she says, I like
this food,
it’s good, it’s fine, I

can’t even taste the burnt part, and she means
Don’t rain
down fire again. She’s nine.

And every penitent reparation—Do you like
me, reader?
Do you like me sorry now?—ensnares

her more and makes her shoulder
more
of this im-

partible estate. It seemed like
Mars
to me when I was young, that other



3.


world of women with its four fleshed walls
of love.
My mother, who can turn the most un-

likely raw materials to gladness used
to call
her monthly blood “the curse.” I

know, I know, our arsenal of pills
is new,
our tampons and detergents, all

our euphemizing gear; the body
in even its
flourishing seethes and cramps. When the

painter, for example, looks for
leverage
on a metaphor, nine-

tenths of her labor is in-the-flesh. The wash
of acrylic,
the retinal flare: we say

that the surfeited pigment “bleeds.” And
every
counter-argument—the margin of shoreline,

the margin of black, the four-
fold
margin she’s stretched the canvas to com-

prehend—undoes itself a little in its straining after
emphasis.
I can tell, says my daughter, the difference between



4.


the morning light and light at the end
of the day.
And from room to room in the crowded

museum she blazons her facility. That’s night. That’s
not. That’s
Sunset Corner, says the plaque. As though

the vaults of fire had found their
boundary
in an act of wit, or California’s amplitude

in glib suburban pavement. Or have I
missed
the point again? Out-

flanking the painter’s luxuriant brushwork
(maybe
I’ve loved this grief too well) is

something more quotidian and harder
won.
The fretted cloth on the third or fourth rinsing goes

yellow, goes brown, the young
girl’s hands
—she's just pubescent—ache

with cold. Some parts—
the red’s
bare memory now—were never bad. The sound

of the water, for instance, the smell,
the rim
of the stain that’s last to go.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Poem Edited: Wednesday, September 14, 2011


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