by Jack Bedell
“Matisse with Doves”
Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1944
In the photograph, the old man
grips a bird in his left hand,
clamps down on it, not to trap it
but to set free what part
eludes the eye. His fingers reach
into its meat. He rolls its bones
carefully under his thumb,
bones filled with so much air
they are, themselves, lighter even.
Around him, the studio is a mess
of cages, patterned fabrics, and sunlight.
He is slump-lost in the sinews
that give the dove dominion over ground,
himself trapped in a grayscale vacuum,
weighed down by turban and shawl,
for all of us to roll between
the lobes of our brain, figuring
how best to spill him out,
true, onto the canvas.