Jul/Aug 2008 Poetry Special Feature

Woman Before an Aquarium

by Jennifer Finstrom

Woman Before an Aquarium

Henri Matisse, 1921-23, oil on canvas

She stares into it as if it were a lamp
and she hopes for illumination.

Here the shadows are the only things
that move. They dwell on her face,

traverse the wallpaper's blue expanse.
Even the goldfish hover motionless, returning

her regard. The fish's eyes are gemstones.
They are agates and topaz, malachite

as vivid green as celery, stones that
might bring her luck, change her fortune.

They know something, these fish,
some secret she has yet to devise, but

when she dreams of them, they speak in words
she soon forgets, their voices flowing

like silver. When the room is dark, everything
is a target. She feels the arrow pointed

at her breast, but doesn't know who aims.
She continues to stare, leans sharply forward,

arms folded on the table. The fish bob
like lures. Their world is too small to hold

them; they would hate its limitations
if they knew how. Though the bowl before

her eyes looks full, she hears in the quiet
rooms, the leaking cistern's steady drip.

Previous Piece Next Piece