A painting is an artful lie, a hoax
designed to force the viewer to mistake
a few brush-strokes of pigment on a board
for the pure blue-white edge of reality.

The magician with his bag of tricks makes
his way across the stage, and a white dove
rises into the flies, while the audience
sits beyond in a hushed silence, or bored.
When sunlight slants across a well-worn floor
the painter’s desire to mislead awakes,
and he reaches behind for a clean brush.

We painters know the rote of numbered line,
the dry tamed texture of light, the feat
of fetching colors wild in a field of white.
And if, when we stand well back from the work,
a spot in the center of the picture glows,
an angel comes to assess the trompe l’oeil.
And a woman rises from a box, and bows,
displaying her sequined torso, intact.
And the spotlight slanting across her back
glows translucent within her pale-downed nape.

September 2, 1987

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