Paul Violi

In the Lounge at the Physicians' Guild

The standing nudes and odalisques
are by Pale Otis, The Swooner;
and his model was his beloved.
With her before him, at times
in a nightgown so sheer
she looked like a lily
afloat in a crystal vase,
he prefected that style
in which her limbs,
her munificent thighs,
are never outlined
but fluttered and rubbed,
gradations of light and dark
caressed to the drowsy transparency
of a pink flower
beneath the wings of a honey bee,
or a shoreline at high noon
to a wayworn sailor's eye.
He himself called it "strumming,"
drawing a plucked string,
the sweetest, most languid string
of the lute the moment before
it comes to rest, to show
how the sight of her 
erased the line
between reason and rapture.

And he took care to preserve
these drawings with a fixative,
smudge-proof and fast-drying,
that did not alter his techniques
or the texture of the paper;
that dried in seconds and caused
the least possible change
to delicate tints and values.

And he always tried to follow
directions, holding the can 
at a 45 degree angle
12--14 inches above the drawing,
starting at the bottom, spraying
from side to side in overlapping
strokes as he proceeded to the top.

And this fixative contained ethanol,
methanol, and ethyl acetate.
And when he got some in his eyes
his assistants had to flush them
with water for fifteen minutes
and call a noteworthy physician.
And when he inhaled it
his trusty assistants
would comfort his beloved
and call a noteworthy physician
who would treat him 
for injury to his blood
and kidneys and lungs.
And when he ingested it
he suffered confusion and headache,
instability and paralysis.
And to induce vomiting
his assistants would drag him
over the back of a mule,
then play cards in the shade
with his beloved and console her
until a noteworthy physician arrived
and a paler Otis was fully revived.