Ruben’s Women



Titanettes, female fauna,

naked as the rumbling of barrels.

They roost in rampled beds,

asleep, with mouths agape, ready to crow.

Their pupils have fled into flesh

and sound the glandular depths

from which yeast seeps into their blood.


Daughters of the Baroque. Dough

thickens in troughs, baths steam, wines blush,

cloudy piglets careen across the sky,

triumphant trumpets neigh the carnal alarm.


O pumpkin plump! O plumped-up corpulence

inflated double by disrobing

and tripled by your tumultuous poses!

O fatty dishes of love!


Their skinny sisters woke up earlier,

before dawn broke and shone upon the painting.

And no one saw how they went single file

along the canvas’s unpainted side.


Exiled by style. Only their ribs stood out.

With birdlike feet and palms, they strove

to take wing on their jutting shoulder blades.


The thirteenth century would have given them golden halos.

The twentieth silver screens.

The seventeenth, alas, holds nothing for the unvoluptuous.


For even the sky bulges here

with pudgy angles and a chubby god –

thick-whiskered Phoebus, on a sweaty steed,

riding straight into the seething bedchamber.


Wisława Szymborska  

(from Salt 1962)