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Thérèse Dreaming at The Met



“Balthus’s licentiousness and genius claw at each other.”

—Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, January 1, 2018


Thérèse is dreaming at The Met, eyes closed,

her left knee raised, revealing white panties:

Balthus claimed that the only thing exposed

was whatever each viewer of his subject sees.

Her left knee, raised, revealing white panties,

Thérèse looks away from us, as she’s posed,

Balthus claiming what he the individual sees

is the restaurant worker’s daughter he knows.


Thérèse looks away from us, as she’s posed:

Balthus claims he sees preteen girl mystery,

the restaurant worker’s daughter he knows,

hands behind her head, eyes closed, dreamy.

Balthus claimed he saw preteen girl mystery,

so he painted them, with or without clothes,

hands behind the head, eyes closed, dreamy,

leaning back in a chair, a knee raised, posed.


Balthus painted them with or without clothes.

Thérèse is dreaming at The Met, eyes closed,

leaning back in a chair, a knee raised, posed,

as Balthus posed her, white panties exposed.

 

Stephen Gibson is the author of eight poetry collections: Frida Kahlo in Fort Lauderdale (Able

Muse Press finalist book prize, forthcoming), Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror (2017 Miller

Williams Prize winner, University of Arkansas Press), The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of

Ghazals (Texas Review Press), Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize Winner, Story

Line Press; 2021 Legacy Title Red Hen Press), Paradise (Miller Williams finalist, University of

Arkansas Press), and three others.

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