Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Bone-Hollow, True

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.