Martha Silano

In Women of Tahiti, one woman sports a peony-pink shift,
the other a cherry-red frock splattered with white floppy flowers.
The shift is a missionary shift. The frock is traditional.
The placard says we cannot understand them.

Why are Gaughin's women so sullen, so markedly pissed, I asked
before I knew he was fucking them.

Endless blathering about sin and guilt, penitence and pain. Catholicism.
Spirit-watched, she dips her hair in a stream of jagged flamingo.

King Pomare V is dying (symbol of ancient tradition),
but the dying’s been going on 100 years, the church
long ago banning carving, piercing, tattooing, dancing.
In exchange: famine, alcohol, war.

Yellow lilies in a flaxen sky. She holds a blue blossom. Weary.
Cadaverous figures made of wood and bone, modeled from his dreams.
Ribs visible through the skin. A severed female head. Lavender flames.       

Girl-women. Broad blocks of timeless daily life.
Universal flowering, a lyrically loose crimson dress
concealing voluptuousness, but not the tears.

Amber sarong. Blue sarong. Purple hill.
What the horse whispered to the pig,
beneath bare branches, grazing.




About eight years ago I was invited by Seattle Writers in the Schools to participate in a series of K-12 writing sessions in conjunction with a SAM Gauguin/Tahitian art exhibit. All workshop leaders attended a training/informational session and were permitted to visit the exhibit as much as they wanted. The workshop I facilitated with local high school students was a blast, but I recall being horrified when I learned that paintings like When Will You Marry? and Where Are You Going? were not only created by a sadist/ rapist/ pedophile, but that the Edenic portrait of Tahiti Gauguin depicted in his work was a sham.  My poem is a result of these and other revelations, along with the detailed notes I took during several visits to the show.