Femme Cheval

Ricardo Pau-Llosa

After various paintings by Wifredo Lam


Wifredo Lam – Femme-Cheval


The ridden are always female
in religion.  The spirit mounts,
and the chant and tremble reveal

the self as a deck of cards,
splayed in a fan against
the green heaven of felt.

Simultaneity is female,
one of the many amphorae
of the guarded self.

In Lam’s paintings,
she is a paragraph
sitting unrestingly

against a mostly flat background.
Horse, plant, breast, demon,
hoof and hand, head

and mane.  The chair
holds all the things
she is at once, like a hand

with a royal flush.
Because the artist
is Cuban, half African

and half Chinese, magics
are summoned, possessions,
a panic of spirits, a maze

turned into totem’s obelisk
of one self.  One island
that was never an island—

so vast the world of centuries
it swallowed like a nervous god
and kept inside.  Until one day.

This the horse woman knows,
neither waiting nor wanting
to leave.  The prism she is at home

being never tires.  She is theater,
not hearth.  Field, not shelter.
Male, too.  So much, so many.


Photo: Liam Crotty

Ricardo Pau-Llosa’s eighth book of poetry is due out next fall from Carnegie Mellon University Press, publisher of his previous five titles.  His poems have appeared (or will soon) in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, december, The Fiddlehead, Island, Hudson Review, New England Review, Plume, PN Review, Poetry, Prism International, Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, among other journals.  He is also an art critic and curator specializing in modern Latin American art.


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