Madonna Stories

Published April 1, 2014 by kdorholt

ImageMy ekphrastic poem is based on a poster advertising Gary Paulsen’s 1988 collection of short stories The Madonna Stories. As I researched Gary Paulsen, I noticed the reviews used some interesting phrases to describe his work and its purpose, so I decided to use selected phrases in the poem itself. Those phrases are placed in quotation marks within the poem.

The Madonna Stories

“All of our knowledge—everything we are
is locked up in books.”
(Gary Paulsen)

All around you waits in shadow
As you stand alone
in a sensuous stream
of lightness reflected in the slightly
tilted standing mirror
in the middle of your room

Your pale young skin
and supple shoulders,
Your head cocked to one side
like a spring-born baby bird’s
as you study yourself—
a “bone-edged beauty.”

Framed by the worn wood,
you ponder your potential—
A “survival in isolation”
as you ready yourself
for some “rite of passage.”

A scant black slip
skims your body
and stray cascading curls
fall from a bun
randomly wrapped and bowed
atop your dark-haired
youthful woman’s head.

(Will you wear the
gauzy yellow dress
cavalierly draped over
the corner dressing screen,
decorated with tumbling
crimson cabbage roses?)

Hands clapsed to hips cement
a strong and purposeful pose
of sentient study.
You see just your front reflection.
I view the whole of you—

The back of your sensuous
swan-like neck,
your sharp shoulder blades
securing your cream-like back,
bared by the slip’s deep “V,”
all evoke my “intense emotion.”

What a wondrous weight you wield
as you ready yourself—
(For a first dance?
So I surmise.)

Before you slip into
the summer-yellow sheath,
you ready even the reluctant reader.
You—the siren song—

If we have fallen in love with you,
we feel welcomed to “fall in love
with the writing within—
with the dance of it.”

You have become our “safety net”—
And our enticement yours?






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