John Steinbeck as Nude Model: Life Poem

 Image of "Naked John Steinbeck" by Martha Gallagher Michael

Naked John Steinbeck

On the brocade couch, long and lean he looks beyond you
past the fact you are drawing him
and he is being drawn
past the awkwardness of his being naked
past any feelings between you two

Then he opens his mouth with a deep sigh
and a drawl only a westerner could possess
and politely, if not somewhat shyly, asks
“when will you be done?”

This impatience, like a rock thrown through an otherwise smooth clean glass
just polished with fervor,
breaks through to the flow of
in-the-moment mindfulness of seeing and transposing
the thingness of John Steinbeck naked on the couch.

As you listen to Tom Waits singing “Pony”
and the scene suddenly turns red,
then back to white on black
staying incarcerated there
in the moment
you see the dual nature of everything.

Steinbeck is grinning now, having found
his whereabouts to be comical
and your tentative nature
like another unanswered question
he forms:
“Is that what I look like without a stitch on?”

“Naked John Steinbeck,” acrylic and ink on black paper, by Martha Gallagher Michael.

Martha Gallagher Michael About Martha Gallagher Michael

Martha Gallagher Michael is a professor of education at Capital University near Columbus, Ohio who specializes in dyslexia and other learning disabilities. A painter, metalsmith, and collage artist, she is also a poet who works at the intersection of language and the visual arts. A past participant in writer’s workshops at Kenyon College and Indiana University, she took part in the 2016 Port Townsend (Washington) Writers’ Conference. Three of her poems were accepted by Pudding, the poetry magazine, in the same year.

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