Winslow Homer, Undertow (1886)
Witnesses said I was dead. I did not gulp for air, did not part my lips. Who am I, and what do they know? There was the event, the newspaper report, and there is this man’s rendering. In the painting I am still reaching for one of your hands while my rescuer pulls me out of the ocean by my hair. I remember too clearly what entered my mouth, swirling with salt and sand. It was cold and dark. I was blind. You encircled me. That night the artist gave us wine and fruit. Didn’t we want only our wages? Now you are still kicking away your slipper, silver as a fish. Your rescuer lusts for you through the blue fabric, his green shirt torn to a net. We were on a rooftop. The artist’s apprentices drenched us with buckets of water. Still you cling to me. The sun flashes off our wet skin. We shimmer, the waves shimmer, the men shimmer. They ripple their bodies before us.
Kathleen Kirk is the author of four poetry chapbooks and the poetry editor for Escape Into Life, an online adventure dedicated to visual and literary arts. Her work appears in a variety of print and online magazines, including Comstock Review, Sweet, Poetry East, and Umbrella, and she is the winner of the 2011 Ekphrasis Prize for a poem published in Ekphrasis.