The Broken Pitcher, 1891

after William-Adolphe Bouguereau

broken at her bare feetone leg stretched
forwardbig toe flexed
drew on a fashion
moist-earth eyesher moutha pout
hair tied backstrands loosened to flax
for peasant imagery
a frayed shawl crossedher slight chest
color of dried marigoldswhite sleeves
investing it with
a skirtover narrow hipsspread full
coarse cloth beaten cleandeep indigo
sexual allusion—
there isan olive grove somewhere
neara beloved treedark among fresh roses
the cracked pitcher
but she must sitbeside the village pump
raised kneesmall hand held in the other
perhaps signifies lost
as if cupping something fraillike an egg
just founda speckled shell
virginity or
beauty is what we walk towardgazing
also concealedhow thirsty now
love abandoned
“What do you expect, you have to follow public
taste, and the public only buys what it likes. That’s
why, with time, I changed my way of painting.”

Virginia Barrett’s work has most recently appeared in Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology in Response to Arizona SB 1070 (University of Arizona Press), The Fem, Belle Reve, and Apple Valley Review. She is the editor of two anthologies of contemporary San Francisco poets including OCCUPY SF—poems from the movement. She is the recipient of a 2017 writer’s residency grant from the Helena Wurlitzer Foundation.

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