"Sienna", by Jim Kemp

Burnt Umber

Shifting images scumble
paint, thin layer on layer, dimly
shading, softening the apparent
opaque surface.
Hands on hip
this woman looks so-
lid.                     Emp-
ty. Light streams
body's dispersal.
Flashes off solar

Vast night sky. Burnt
umber pushes
her head past her eyes.

Anguish wished far
for. Wide spread

Light so light and
lovely. Who though is
ready for this
final dis/

solution into
an unknown


self-potrait by Emily Carr, 1938/1939

self-potrait by Emily Carr, 1938/1939

In Emily Carr’s one self-portrait, broad brush strokes
obliterate boundary to fling her bosom across the can-

vas like horizontal wheat sheaves. Caring no fig for
tradition, flesh streaks off edge outside all frame.

Wild woman of the woods in a village of cat’s eyes,
she nags snarling weather into domestic peace, pets
the wind, sweeps cloud down streaming cedar trunk.

In the paintings around her, implacable mountains rise
and sit arms folded, waiting their turn. Firm hands on
knees, another hill down the hall squares off discourse.

The mountain inside recognizes the other out there.

Frida on Exhibit

Watch me tear this painting. Watch me rip it up or paint
another better or worse. It matters from my eye’s eye.

Body parts. Body parts to open the red sea of despond.
Circling upon her track, the hunted seeks the hunter out.

My body is mine to display, mine to mind. Mine to cram
in open pits of roiling, wicked pigment. Watch me dye.

Wracked without ruin, with no easy room to manoeuvre
on thin bed rack, her mind stretches beyond skin to easel.

Palette splashed in fury cast to contain a febrile agility
might avoid the looming void beyond fervent defiance.

Moods thicken. Tint hardens to stone. Medusa glints
solidified just as snared as any light caught in her eye.

Tentacles sprung from her head glitter seduction. Form-
al ribbons of snake coil like a Spanish Infanta’s dress

by Velasquez, wild vein through white leaves’ ruff.
A flat surface of sheer rock powdered to outlast flesh.

Frida draws her hair as whip lacerates her throat. Such
vegetation grown long, twists to vengeance when shorn.

Linked chain around her neck, cadena. Monkey’s paw
protective. Then jackal’s inquisitively pointed ears. No—

just a black dog gone murky when eyes swim sea-green
spark dashed with pain or pills swallowed to kill pain.

Above her ear, an amorphous androgynous couple floats
turning in amniotic thought cloud. What nostrum must
be murmured over and over tumbling through such froth?

She-he-we. El, ella, nosotros. Confessions of mute rage
flickering phosphorescent over Sargasso’s obsessed sea.


Her heart opens like a sacred heart of Jesus to reveal Diego—
Diego Rivera. Her third eye a bronze medallion of Maria

gleams so curiously blind to its own reflection before that
ongoing inquisition of other eyes, eyes she sought so long.

Just try to forget me now. I dare you, double dare. Already
my art has outlived all you onlookers of this ostensible life.

Canvassing Landscape

The sun spoke in her ear
wheeling fire.
The sun smiled in her face
          her cheekbones.
The sun stroked her head
her bleaching hair.

Her cranium bleached all
summer long before
sprouting tiny
white fibres.
Fed by speckled blue eyes
the roots matted, mapped
new links to Gaia.

Succulent adapted to
the erratic impossible
union. Water and fire
pushing up

Taut skin stretched
across cheeks
O’Keefe’s old

bones talk
louder than living
animals, so she remarks.

She collects
hollows from the hills of oceanic
desert to enter endless

cerulean sky through
certain two
dimensions of paint
she collects.

She becomes her own