Elizabeth Poliner

Looking at Buds

Volume 14:4, Fall 2013
Prose Poem Issue

Looking at Buds

It was my love, the painter, who said, “They’re sexy.”  We’d turned from the soft points at branches’ tips to a more complex formation, layers of moist, delicate fiber opening to other layers.  I added, Like that sex in Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers that takes us, even now, by some surprise.

I’ve read that she was aghast at the equation: flower to sex, sex to Freud.  “But I only painted what I saw,” she might very well have countered.  One can hardly look at a Stieglitz print of O’Keefe without acknowledging her form.  That hard, unadorned body was sexy, like a bud, like a flower.

If she happened to see a little of herself in the blossoms she painted, if her work amounts to self-portrait in nature, perhaps we should turn from surprise to celebration.  After all, hasn’t she drawn us too?

Then again, there are those glowing bones, the dry skulls.  Then again, there is that endless desert sky.


Elizabeth Poliner's books include the poetry collection, What You Know in Your Hands (David Robert Books), a Beltway Poetry Quarterly Best Book selection for 2015, and the novel, As Close to Us as Breathing (Little, Brown & Co.), winner of the 2017 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize in Fiction, finalist for the Ribalow Prize for Jewish fiction and the Library of Virginia’s People’s Choice Award in Fiction, and an Amazon Best Book of 2016. Her poetry has appeared in The Sun, the Southern Review, the Hopkins Review, Ilanot Review, and Seneca Review. She teaches at Hollins University where she directs the Jackson Center for Creative Writing. To read more by this author, see the Spring 2000 Issue, Whitman Issue, and Evolving City Issue.