Women in Public

Women in public pose in disguise that deny that they belong. In this artbook store, they shyly muse as if unwilling to admit to the secret parts of themselves in the folios of continental masters. I look at documentaries of modern art and over the margins I look at them. They are books in which one only looks at pictures. My desire renders them beautiful and strong, but by their own desire they’re something else, something for which they have no word. I sympathize. They are too familiar, and I am one of their strangers. As a stranger, I may look, but never speak; I may guess, but never ask them questions. Who, I wonder, is the artist of their composure? Who is the perpetrator of their mystery? It is as though they may leave the store without pausing at the register to pay for the books that now belong to them. When they’re gone I am bitter with envy, and wish I had entered their lives by having written the pages that they press under their shrouded arms.

18 November 1979