A Letter of Apology to Georgia O’Keefe

A Letter of Apology to Georgia O’Keefe
by Hallie Chametzky

I set out to write a poem
It was to be a self-righteous one
In disagreement with you (the you I have found in
museums, on shelves,
in lazy jokes and amateur critics)
It was to be a treatise on my vagina
and the way it never bloomed or blossomed
or smelled faint and sweet
the ways it is muscular, and visceral
and powerful
and never passive in matters of
pollination

But I discovered,
floating there in the shallowest pools of research,
that you spent your life eraser in hand
running behind the narrative scratched together
by the great pencil wielding hands
The narrative stubbornly spouted by pseudo-Freudians
lazily shrinking the whole down to its parts
The one so happily touted by feminists
(the only ones of the bunch who promised to believe you)
when they used you for the covers of their anthologies
talking loudly and quickly over your protest
not hearing the irony or the cruelty

I am sorry, dear Georgia,
that while great and genius and master
were allowed you
definer and decider and pencil wielder
were not
I am sorry your paintings have had fingers that did not belong to you
dragged through them, leaving permanent smudges
I am sorry we cannot,
not ever, it seems,
choose to believe women
even in matters of their own creation
I choose to see flowers
(or if I do not, to call it chance)
I choose never again to burden you
with the weight of a vulva that you did not ask for
I know yours has burdened you enough
I choose to believe you
I hope you will forgive me

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