There’s only one picture of us I like.
In the painting, you’re seated, fully clothed;
I’m lying naked across your lap
in a perverted Pietà: chest open
toward the painter, one impossibly long arm
draping down to the platform
where the fingers curl into meticulous detail.
Not quite touching.
It was cold in the studio that day, I remember—
one of the windows stuck open—
a little before the hurricane or a little after,
right before the election, the hospital.
If he sold it, someone bought it
(a man I imagine)
so the painting hangs in a hallway
in a house or apartment
where perhaps the buyer passes it
once in the morning, once at night
and thinks it is beautiful
the latter, what you must tolerate in the image;
the former, the reason to.
If the painter didn’t sell it, couldn’t,
it’s probably in another studio now, in storage—
the way a photograph of me, naked again,
waits in the film cartridge
of a disposable camera
up for auction
because it was yours.
How his hands shook the first time
the man sent him from the bed into darkness
to fill the jug again. How pitch
the path. How he turned back, begged
for a lamp—how the man
told him to crawl if he had to.
How the boy found the barrel (near full)
and unstopped the spigot (dripping)
without knowing when to stop it again,
so that the wine spilled over and wet his fingers,
purpled the floor. How the man,
angry in the morning at what had been wasted,
was unusually tender the next night. But also
how he pushed the boy back out again and again
to teach him the particulars of capacity.
This is how it feels empty, this is how it feels full.
How it was never or always the same:
the moment between mastery and mess.
Jameson Fitzpatrick’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Awl, BuzzFeed Reader, Poetry, Prelude, and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbook Morrisroe: Erasures (89plus/LUMA Publications), which comprises 24 versions of a single text by the artist Mark Morrisroe, and teaches writing at New York University.