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Tom Montag

TOM_MONTAG_PHOTOTom Montag’s books of poetry include: Making Hay & Other Poems; Middle Ground; The Big Book of Ben Zen; In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; This Wrecked World; The Miles No One Wants; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy. His poem “Lecturing My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain” has been permanently incorporated into the design of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham he recently co-edited Local News: Poetry About Small Towns.

“The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

She cannot
hold herself
who cannot

be held. This
light gathers

where we want
to touch her,
gives us

when she
would speak.

“The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

The square of the hypotenuse
equals the sum of the squares of

its two adjacent sides. That is
what this painting means. Emptiness

is everything divided by
nothing. If you keep asking

what a poem means, soon
you will come, as painting does, to

line and shape and color, patterns,
the rhythm of a tongue in love.

What does this have to do with the
woman in the painting? Love is

desire divided by loss.
Loneliness is a certain hum

of color the air gives off. Either
the painting speaks to you, either

the poem speaks to you, or not.
A bucket contains all bucket-

ness and that’s what you need to know.

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