(for Alice Neel)
Mimi Hennessy

They appear somewhat helpless,

like animals at the zoo,

looking out at us, at her,

floating in the remnants

of that ultramarine border.

She was unforgiving

in her renditions, the paint seizing

these visual truths—

glances, poses, wrinkles,

pain, pregnancies, and scars,

recording them

with brutal honesty.

Yet, she would shorten legs,

bloat thighs, change fingers,

as if she came upon them

that way,

the poses so natural

despite what she had altered.

Like a slip of the tongue,

they fell into a pose too comfortably,

their faces flashing that one brief glance,

and before they could stop her,

she held the moment like a weapon,

and began.

When she was finished,

they were free to peer

around her easel.

The paint was still wet

as they looked into

those cages they couldn’t see

when she coaxed them in.

"Self-Portrait" by Alice Neel

"Andy Warhol" by Alice Neel

"Mother and Child (Nancy and Olivia)" by Alice Neel

Mimi Hennessy is a poet, artist, and mother of three daughters. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut, the town where she grew up, attended college, and where her husband, David, now teaches. Her poetry has appeared in several journals, including Curbside Review, Palo Alto Review, 5AM, The New Delta Review, Fox Cry Review, and Common Ground Review.

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