Matisse and his Women


Monsieur Matisse, seated in an armchair,

cutting out pieces of women–

strips of colour transformed by liver-spotted hands

into the languorous limbs of well nourished blank-faced amazons.

Fluttering round the old man,

in the silent ciné film are two handmaidens,

a tall one with Titian hair in bias-cut dress all dusty pink,

intent on pinning yellow crosses to a red background

and an emerald sweater girl,

caught in profile with love heart pout,

reaching up to do his bidding–

a wide bangle on her slender arm not quite meeting–

leaving a hiatus of pale skin.

His gaze always lingers on those intimate passages,

slender lines drawn in air between arms, thighs and belly,

all sultry elongations to play for

woman into amphora–

in this ever-changing game of gouaches découpés.

Fumbling around her torso, his thick scissor blades

produce a breast as full as a pomegranate,

while its opposite number,

the virgin teat of a Flemish Master’s Madonna,

made to suckle a baby Jesus–is always placed a little higher.

He can never get enough of the curve of things–

humble coffee pots become odalisques,

spouts and handles bud into breasts

in a harem of motifs where everything is repeated.

Restless–his attention shifts from scissors and paper

and he stares through the studio wall

at other young women strolling around the exhibition space.

There is one with lustrous dark hair tumbling down her back–

perhaps a little more farouche than the rest,

wearing kinky boots and a red sun dress with scooped neckline,

creamy shoulders marked by black bra straps.

His spectacles flash as he lunges forward to cut her out,

caressing the back of her waist and legs with the flat of the blades–

how he longs to paint sloping zigzags of Prussian blue

upon her flimsy skirt and bodice–for there is already enough black.

She is brought before him, naked–and pinned high on his studio wall.

And taking up his long bamboo pole with the stub of charcoal,

one hand gripping the back of a chair,

he begins to sketch the lines where the flow of green, yellow, blue

will go, between two wide-spaced circles,

down her belly and over her loins,

caressing her knees–

to spill round her square-toed goddess feet.

His vision complete, the Maestro steps back

and assisted by the emerald sweater girl,

he sinks into his armchair with a sigh of gratification

and still gazing up at his creation,

asks her to bring him tea.

Matisse and his Women

2 thoughts on “Matisse and his Women

  1. Lise, this came out beautfully. I was taken by the whole array of emotions you manged; refined, cheeky, lively, talented–even sensuous. I happen to like Matisse, I saw him in a different light here. Greatly enjoyed.


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