Dorianne Laux





I convinced Manet to paint me with a tinge of ocher
in his brush--true color of our world--yellow
of jaundice, syphilis, death,

each line indelicate, flowers messy, spattered
on the canvas, wrapped in the stiff, waxy paper
used to carry home butchered

meat, gutted fish, used later to take the bones
to the trash. And the cat, its salacious eyes wide,
a tom who would risk his life

for sex: ruthless, common, king of the alley. Yes,
I was lower-class, but I had power, an artist myself.
I tied the ribbon around my neck,

to separate the head from the body, to say: This meat
you have tasted, left spread on the sheets as you dress
for the boulevard, tossing

your money on the bed, this is the body you refused
to see: its dirty feet and sallow breasts, its sun-darkened
hands even maquillage

can’t disguise, I have divided from the mind
which dismisses you, the mouth with its insolent
sneer, the blunt, unrefined chin

held high. Admit it! What you fear are my eyes,
their intelligence twinned: When I die, you are sure
to follow. And the black maid,

you ask, whose arms are burdened with your blossoms
of death, of course, she knows, too. See how she holds
them back even as their faces

tumble forward, toward the hand that will live
for centuries. This hand will never rise
from my lap.

"Olympia" previously published in Smoke. Copyright 2000 by Dorianne Laux. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.



A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Dorianne Laux's fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award, chosen by Ai. It was also short-listed for the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for the most outstanding book of poems published in the United States and chosen by the Kansas City Star as a noteworthy book of 2005. Laux is also author of three collections of poetry from BOA Editions, Awake (1990) introduced by Philip Levine, recently reprinted by Eastern Washington University Press, What We Carry (1994) and Smoke (2000). Superman: The Chapbook was released by Red Dragonfly Press in January, 2008. Co-author of The Poet's Companion, she's the recipient of two Best American Poetry Prizes, a Best American Erotic Poems Prize, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has appeared in the Best of the American Poetry Review, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry and Best of the Net, and she's a frequent contributor to magazines as various as the New York Quarterly, Orion, Ms. Magazine and on-line journals. Laux has waited tables and written poems in San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Petaluma, California, and as far north as Juneau, Alaska. For the last 13 years she has taught at the University of Oregon in Eugene and since 2004, as core faculty at Pacific University's Low Residency MFA Program. Her summers are spent teaching poetry workshops at Esalen in Big Sur, Spoleto, Italy and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. In fall of 2008 she and her husband, poet Joseph Millar, will move to Raleigh where she will join the faculty at North Carolina State University as a Poet-in-Residence.