Paula Modersohn-Becker to Rainer Maria Rilke

I write, ‘It was not everything I thought it would be—’
as if an explanation for Paris, the dark maroon
of the flat, curtains flailing in the fist of wind,
barrelling through the guttered window.

And, ‘What we make we must throw away
because our secrets come loudly out
even as our eyes are closed against them.’

I remember you at the small wood table
in the kitchen. Pouring the last of the wine
as if we were not struggling, as if paints could be procured
as readily as words. What could I say then
that did not reveal me? We were open wounds,
obeying the formalities of a meal.

‘I arrived in Worpswede for the weekend with Otto
and he asked after your well being.
I spoke of your adeptness with oyster shells,
and language, of the small curling words
you wrote in my journal after dinner.
Buttery finger marks left on the page.’

I thought of that last flickering of light,
the hiss as you pinched the wick of the candle,
after writing. Smoke curling around,
finding its way to the nearest draft.
The dishes left stranded on the table.
All that rain coming in.

‘I do not want to know how you see me,
and as a gesture will never paint you again
will pretend art is an exercise of the wrist
and not the chipped wine glass you sent tumbling
over, broken in two on the floor.’

Both halves just set there, one lying next
to the other. Small rut of wine left in the hollow.
The knock of loose shutters against the August gloom,
their clap, the sound of a heart beating.
Oh you and I, and our useless hands.