Arbus at the MET

Poem by Susan Thomas

...innumerable inscrutable habits
lie in wait for their meaning.

—Diane Arbus

See how the body, coupled or twin,
casts no shadow; how the skin, white
or tattooed, speaks for itself,
 
how the face, masked or made up,
does all the begging; and the eyes, downcast
or glancing, bear every burden.
 
See how the mouth, open or closed,
chooses its syllables; how the lips, in a kiss
or a scowl, pretend to listen,
 
how the arms, bent or folded,
rein in the heart; and the hand, gloved
or naked, leads us away.
 
See how the legs, crossed or apart,
refuse their own motion; how the feet,
bare or in shoes, remain where they are
 
beside themselves, unlike ours,
that willing or unwilling, advance
or retreat, or those of the runner
 
that, at first light or last,
hurry, one after the other,
outpacing the cold.

 

American Arts Quarterly, Winter 2008, Volume 25, Number 1