The Eye

Toyen, Objekt-fantom, 1937

I am no more Marie than…. You cannot attribute a gender to an eye without a face. Men, women both may have long lashes, certain wrinkles—the eye alone does not signify. From the French for citizen, citoyen…. Indeed, let me remove the lashes, paint the iris a greening yellow, nestle the eye in a ball, whether feathered or furred—whether feathered or furred it is animal sans he, sans she. When I say I am a painter, I use the word’s masculine form. I see now the eye I painted is owl-like: ungendered knowledge.

 

 

 

Prey

Toyen, The Message of the Forest, 1942

Look at this owl in its bridal-white cape—look at that girly-blonde head in its claws! So those girl eyes are puffy with fatigue, with tears, with fear. So her white face fades into light. What remains? There’s nothing more visceral than that owl’s raptorial grip, that curve of claw over girl. I will not apologise.

 

 

 

Wintering (1)

O inching November
unduly yet delicate

the chill air I stand in
the faint warmth of sun

on what skin’s exposed

my eyes lower
to colour

gaudy yellow afoot
thousands and thousands

of yellow, just now

 

 

 

That Summer

         “A wretched use of summer….”
         Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons

A wretched use of summer, the discord, the young man with his wooden cart to carry my apples to market. He’d have thrown them into the hold without straw, without cushion, he’d have delivered the fruit bruised and so we argued and so in the night I lined the cart with straw and so in the morning I saw him throwing it out again. And oh Rosie, stepping away from the loaves and the oven and the flour to take his part. And here’s the young man’s uncle putting in his word with a sage nod. This amid the warmth of bougainvillea and asparagus, ripe peaches and iced lemonade. When at last the apples, layered in hay, when at last the young man, grunting, harnessed the horse, when at last the clop of hooves subsided, I saw the first leaf drop from the maple, and I lay down on the green to absorb what warmth was left.

 

 



[Carrie Etter’s most recent work is a pamphlet of prose poems on the conjunction of youth and violence, The Shooting Gallery (Verve, 2020). Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, The New Republic, The New Statesman, Poetry Review, TLS, and elsewhere. She is Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.]

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