Claire Keyes



When I see flashes of those religious, Arab women
on TV, enveloped in their chadors forehead to feet,
I can’t help imagining a kinship with the sisters
in my parish school, their black habits, faces framed in white.
Habits to inspire reverence, close to a given in my home,
my school, my church. Reverence: a scarf covering my hair,
a knot tied under my chin, just like my mother, my sisters.
Cowed like many mothers, many sisters.

How rich to discover an alternative
in Stieglitz’s photo of Georgia and Ida O’Keeffe.
In this difference, the arc of my life.
They stand side by side, black coats merging.
Ida, her dress loose and baggy, gazes towards her sister,
her shield from the lens. Georgia’s hair is slicked back,
forehead and cheekbones pronounced,
everything about her pronounced.

She peers at the camera her husband holds,
not smiling, seeing as much as being seen
by this man who adores every shape her body makes:
fingers, breasts, cheeks. Never overawed by him, never
absorbed into reverence, she is perfectly assured,
a wedge of white shirt framing her slim neck.