Three Poems

Kate Broad

The Figure
         Isamu Noguchi, 1945
I once was a small bronze head.
Long, like a paddle.
I wanted to dip myself
in water. I had eyes:
open. The air went through me.
I could see inside
my own head.
My neck was long.
My neck ends between my eyes.
It is hard to see. Maybe
this is not my neck.
Maybe I have a very,
very long nose.
I am wearing a mask
with no head.
This is not impossible.
I am proof.
What is this thing
hooked beneath me?
My ribs spear me
like a primitive tool.
It is a good thing
my stomach is empty
or else this would hurt.
I stand on my head,
antlers touching the ground.
Behind me my legs
polished like bone.
My tail stands up
like eyes on my head,
but I have no eyes.
Where did they go?
I look through my no-eyes
at my knees fused together.
I cannot move like this.
I stare upside-down
at my legs and the wall.
I’m getting smarter
just by looking. My back—
it hurts.
         Adolph Gottlieb, 1972
I am red and the black
my mess. I am black
(city, sun, red)
burning. What is happening
to me? The sun, so bloody
but I understand––
shame to show one’s face.
Adolph drew me dancing,
my body busy and pale,
my nose a dot.
Adolph drew me dancing,
then he blacked me out.
To be a little boat
along the Seine, a boy
riding his favorite horse,
even a fat woman
on a dreadful carpet––she
has a face. But I––
Oceans on the sun
(red, black) I know
no oceans on the sun.
To be a little boy, a tugboat,
a wisp of hair, a lark.
My Adolph, the brush,
city and sun––all of it
one stroke and
step back, squint,
Lobster, 1977
Crave not the perfect sky,
crest of sand and crest
of sea, the nesting of the next
endangered plover.
Storm clouds menace
romantically as they pass,
not a line astray to stray
the eye––
sad gray eye
steamed shut.

Round crustacean thumbs
like boxing gloves
against a gray-green drop,
fat over seahorse hooks
and the light switch to the hall––
once I thought it
my own mother’s paw
glowing, disembodied
from the pale green formica
of a youth I can’t
quite place, it being
not mine and yet
of me.