In the paintings of the great
a woman is usually naked, stepping
into the bathtub or just out of it. Water glistens
on her breasts. She bends like a branch to wring out
her long, thick hair. You can hear the master's breath.
Another time she is with her sisters
splashing naked in some sylvan pond
in the middle of the woods. Or they dance
together around the trees. They don't know
they are being watched.
She sits naked at a picnic on the grass
with some well-dressed Victorian gentlemen
or in a meadow by herself daydreaming
in the artist's dappled light.
At home she stretches out on the couch
as though she has nothing else to do --- naked and
bejeweled at mid-afternoon, surrounded
by bowls of ripe grapes and pears, or peacocks.
The maid stands by with flowers.
Sometimes she sits at the mirror,
wearing garters or wearing nothing at all,
simply brushing her hair,
or she undresses herself,
pulls off a stocking,
unzips a skirt,
as if she were finally alone in her room
at the end of the day. She doesn't hear
that other woman screaming in the next gallery---
the one thrown to the ground
hair trussed by the roots,
clothes ripped from her body,
trampled naked and torn by thundering
gods and satyrs
and all the king's men.
---Joan I. Siegel
(The Gettysburg Review Volume 15 #2)