Bird of Paradise

Not what you would expect

from a Scottish painter,

this vibrant tropical scene

featuring a beautifully bronzed

nude woman, the geometry

of her oddly set eyes beguiling

the viewer with their direct

but somewhat star-crossed gaze;

and in her hair, the painting’s

namesake flower, a silently

exploding firework of colour,

her portrait’s frame the azure sky

and French-blue water–except

that it’s not a a simple, static

portrait because vague symbols

graze the margins like an arrow

shot from an unseen bow; and

there’s another figure, its visage

sharply triangular, which I perceive

as male without being quite sure why,

the head mounted on a body

with the stripes of a tiger but

a man’s cravat, these eyes also

watching, aimed toward the space

between the viewer and the woman,

through what they see or seek

within that space remains as

mysterious as the woman herself.

Note: This poem responds to Bird of Paradise, a painting (apparently part of a serious on this general theme, by the the Scottish painter John Bellany (1942-2013).  It is my favourite painting from the exhibit The Figure Examined: Masterworks from the Kasser Mockery Art Foundation, currently on display at The Philbrook Museum of Art.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper

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