Poem of the Week | June 13, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Nude #2” by Mag Gabbert.

Mag Gabbert is the author of the forthcoming collection SEX DEPRESSION ANIMALS (Mad Creek Books, 2023), winner of the 2021 The Journal Charles B. Wheeler Prize in Poetry, and the chapbook Minml Poems (Cooper Dillon Books, 2020). Her work can also be found in 32 Poems, Pleiades, The Paris Review Daily, The Massachusetts Review, Waxwing, and elsewhere. Mag has a PhD from Texas Tech University and an MFA from The University of California at Riverside; she’s received poetry fellowships from Idyllwild Arts and Poetry at Round Top; and, in 2021, she was awarded a 92Y Discovery Award. She teaches at Southern Methodist University and serves as the interviews editor for Underblong Journal.


Nude #2

Eroticism, according to Perniola, depends upon “the possibility of movement—transit.”

White thrill of a sheet’s hem, shadow-folded, wet mirrorglint, the quickshimmer of some (untraceable?) valley of pale skin.

Or, states of undress: how breach slips into beach, and grown into gown.

Outside my window, the wind has sculpted a dry riverbed out of snow.

What is this angle, if not an angel, ruined?

Oh, God (who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain),

could I ever have said “let’s have our cake” and not meant “let’s eat it”?

I like to imagine the Venus de Milo with arms made of knotted ribbons, or lemon tree branches.

But then—

like a gift you’d love, but expect—

I keep showing my whole hand.


Author’s Note

As cliché as it may sound, “Nude #2” is interested in Eros—in what creates desire, and/or what its conditions are. And, to me, the central requirement for Eros is a sort of almostness. A reaching out for; a wish. But not a wish already granted. The quote this piece opens with from Italian philosopher Mario Perniola reinforces that sense, but with an additional perspective: that, in order to achieve a state of “almostness,” the subject must somehow be in-between, in motion. I wanted to capture these conditions of motion and almostness formally, so my poem is comprised of a set of nearly-disconnected (or, perhaps nearly-connected) fragments. I’ve also used a title that suggests some kind of continuation, but with an unknowable predecessor (because, in the end, there is no “Nude #1”). The thing I’m trying to get at — the thing I am almost saying — is that, much like the Venus de Milo holds a greater sense of allure now due to her incompleteness, and due to the latent potential and possibility this incompleteness suggests, so, too, does a tasteful nude selfie, which always knows how to angle the shot just-so, which knows how to reveal only enough—enough to not feel like it’s enough.