Two Paintings by Gustav Klimt

Although what glitters
on the trees,
row after perfect row,
is merely
the injustice
of the world,

the chips on the bark of each
beech tree
catching the light, the sum
of these delays
is the beautiful, the human
beautiful,

body of flaws.
The dead
would give anything
I'm sure,
to step again onto
the leafrot,

into the avenue of mottled shadows,
the speckled
broken skins. The dead
in their sheer
open parenthesis, what they
wouldn't give

for something to lean on
that won't
give way. I think I
would weep
for the moral nature
of this world,

for right and wrong like pools
of shadow
and light you can step in
and out of
crossing this yellow beech forest,
this buchen-wald,

one autumn afternoon, late
in the twentieth
century, in hollow light,
in gaseous light. . . .
To receive the light
and return it

and stand in rows, anonymous,
is a sweet secret
even the air wishes
it could unlock.
See how it pokes at them
in little hooks,

the blue air, the yellow trees.
Why be afraid?
They say when Klimt
died suddenly
a painting, still
incomplete,

was found in his studio,
a woman's body
open at its point of
entry,
rendered in graphic,
pornographic,

detail—something like
a scream
between her legs. Slowly,
feathery,
he had begun to paint
a delicate

garment (his trademark)
over this mouth
of her body. The mouth
of her face
is genteel, bored, feigning a need
for sleep. The fabric

defines the surface,
the story,
so we are drawn to it,
its blues
and yellows glittering
like a stand

of beech trees late
one afternoon
in Germany, in fall.
It is called
Buchenwald, it is
1890. In

the finished painting
the argument
has something to do
with pleasure.

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