Brian P. Hall

Remnants

In the bedroom of the invisible boy
            I transform
      a vehicle into sentience
            and wonder
      if it thinks about dinner,

      or if it aches to fold
            into itself
      because it is easier to cope
            as an object.

Among the ruins of block villages,
            I avoid
      the plush animals
            caught
      in snares of carpet tufts,

      and I track the imprints
            of his feet,
      petrified in fiber,
            to find him.

I hear the invisible boy ask why
            I painted
      his life ordinary—
            an inherited palette
      of bookshelf brown, concrete

      grey, and large strokes
            of bedroom wall blue—
      and why these colors never
            seem to fade.

I open the window; when winter enters,
            I shudder
      and wait for the cold
            to expose
      the droplets of his breath

      as it did at the park when he was three
            and he said,
      “All life is, is waiting
            and eating.”

In the bedroom of the invisible boy
            I grab
      his afghan and search
            for a trace
      of him to cover,

      so we can play
            tempest.
      When the afghan ocean
            throws herself over us,

            we will hold tight
      to each other
            as we sink
      and become debris.

The Incredulity of Saint Laurent

            Thus do ‘the religion of Christ’
            and the ‘religion of art’ erotically
            infect one another.”
                        —Dave Hickey

                               I
She looks the snake by design,
an “S” curve corset binding her body to chaos.

Unlike the prophets, she cannot escape whalebone
and steel and centuries will splinter
before the osteotome scrapes the slightest mark.

Even her silhouette restricts, a line drawn
tourniquet tight, and shifts her organs to places
man intends. And she should be happy

to be adored, to be measured, at 16
inches; she has a famine oedema waspline
and atrophied muscles of royalty.

Sisi, Empress of Austria, wrapped in lace,
sneaks away and into Lucheni’s blade;
a sting to the chest transforms

oxygen into heavy granules. They fall within her
and eventually, after 328 feet, weigh her body
beneath the ground. And she should be happy

to be noticed, to be confined by the media
of gazes: satin or leather; tempera and gold;
oil on panel, the strokes of artists

who, like del Piombo, paints the virgin Saint
Agatha, nipples clasped in pincers. She waits
for the knife that points at us;

this tool will perform Quintianus’
mastectomy because she refuses

to be his.

                               II
She no longer struggles to breathe, yet her stance
continues to be sculpted by others.

The couturier’s drape, his measurements and cuts,
provides a form, an ornamental depth,
pinned to the House of Worth.

Lilac silk and tulle, clusters of lilies
of the valley impress Empress Eugénie
and shows the skillful hand of a man

who transmutes his demoiselle de magasin
into a live mannequin. She elicits
desire with her walk.

She is the first model; then, she is his wife,
the one to have his label, his mark,
sewn into her like all possessions.

We admire the artistry, the traces
of fabric against the wind; we see a masterpiece,
a Rembrandt, the skillful hand of a man

who paints a nude Bathsheba, David’s triumph,
at her bath; the warm tones expose
the subtle details of condemnation,

how the eye transubstantiates a routine
into sexual wiles, a seductive liturgy
rendered by temptation.

She becomes the outcast, the adulteress
of David, the whore of Rembrandt, because she made him

want her.

                               III
She subverts the conventions of mothers and lounges
topless in a Yves Saint Laurent ad.

Her arms stretch across a couch; her head
bows toward the handbag on her lap; her hair
obstructs her face but still shows her lips,

full clasps ready to release with a touch,
but the revolver tattoo on her sinewy bicep
warns of coming too close. She still remains

the backdrop, the bare canvas, to display
fashion, the heft of the purse; its straps
rise and loop between her breasts.

She doesn’t seem happy to exhibit
the skillful hand of the designer
or to have her body positioned

to resemble the crucifix, the moment Jesus
waits for the tomb, so he can rise
to his disciples to prove he still remains

relevant, especially to Saint Thomas
in Caravaggio’s Incredulity. He needs
to place his finger into the hole

beneath Jesus’ breast to validate
his existence is real. While disciples gawk
at the spectacle, Jesus appears solemn,

melancholy, because he realizes he is Saint Laurent
and knows what men want has little to do

with faith.

Author Portrait

Brian P. Hall’s works have appeared in New Ohio Review, Memoir, Blue Mesa Review, Seneca Review, Palo Alto Review, and others. He also has an essay in an upcoming issue of Slice. He lives near Cleveland and teaches writing at Cuyahoga Community College.