On her knees she pulls out images,
Weeds in an overgrown bed
She has never wished to tame 
Afraid of the flowers they stifle.
Roots buried like ancient streets,
Louise enjoys their anchorage,
A pleasant walk in sad ruins 
Secure against the gusts of today.

Jealous of the debt, this large inheritance,
She robs her family’s tomb;
A forgotten urn, an innocent guardian,
Resists the robbery

Shattering the vase it saves;
Archaeology’s sad trip 
Splashes mama over the studio,
Papa scattered across the floor. 

In wealthy soil, that grave luxury,
Rich in such nutritious pain,
The most savage marks are left:
A palace after the riotous crowd.
Tights torn by razored ceramics,
Her blue dress stained by earth,
Louise digging up these remains
Tramples them into dirt

They’re…they’re leaving! She kneels, 
And burying her face in her palms
Breathes up the dying earth 
She rubs into her face,

Plaster on her own sarcophagus
She must rush to preserve;
Those scraps of sculptured vagina
Graffiti against the nursery wall.
Louise cuts off Sadie’s breasts.
She stuffs them into father’s cock.
The delicate pleasures of youth
Old age’s bulbous certainties

Butterflies recast as chrysalises,
Frail beauty forever hideous. 
It is art’s terrible revenge:
Each work its own guillotine.

  1. ’Some of us are so obsessed with the past that we die of it. It is the attitude of the poet who never finds the lost heaven and it is really the situation of artists who work for a reason that nobody can quite grasp. They might want to reconstruct something of the past to exorcise it. It is that the past of certain people has such a hold and such a beauty…’1
  2. ‘So what role do I play in this game? I am a pawn. Sadie is supposed to be there as my teacher and actually you, mother, are using me to keep track of your husband. This is child abuse.’1
  3. ‘Everyday you have to abandon your past or accept it and then if you cannot accept it you become a sculptor.’1
  4. ‘God help the lover of snakeskin and stone.’2


1. Louise Bourgeois, edited by Frances Morris.
2. Keith Douglas: Snakeskin and Stone, in The Complete Poems.