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SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Picasso’s Four Bulls

by Florence Weinberger

He begins with a bull, a bull
you and I would see as ordinary,
solitary, stood sideways, feeding like
a still life or pawing the worn-out ground
in a bullring, weighing its stake.

The ink will stick to the drawing to make 
a lithograph of a bull, fully depicted, horns,
hulk shaped and shadowed, swinging sex and 
tail, you will feel them bristling, and notice
its one dumb eye, its minacious head.

This bull won’t be enough for Picasso.
He’ll angle off, I doubt he stood back
more than a minute before he cubed 
the second bull with a butcher’s hand,
bulked it up, kept its menace.

Kept its hazard as it got more abstract,
his genius paradox, allusion; also valor, the
horns more erect, the tail thicker, swishier;
hide, hooves and scrotum augmented.
Even the ears. More face, two eyes.

Then he flays it. Takes away one eye.
Straightens the haunch, streamlines the legs.
With the hooves gone and the tail fallen,
muscles shorn, there’s more light, less shadow,
and still, a bull, until he gets to the fourth bull.

Just lines, lines, lines, no shading, no fillers,
the eye a small miracle of understatement,
the two horns made one in a single swoop,
elliptical, almost comical, the tail and sex 
simple hints. Now, now you can tell his truth.


SHJ Issue 17
Fall 2017

Florence Weinberger

is the author of four published collections of poetry: The Invisible Telling Its Shape (Fithian Press, 1997), Breathing Like a Jew (Chicory Blue Press, 1997), Carnal Fragrance (Red Hen Press, 2004), and Sacred Graffiti (Tebot Bach, 2010). Ghost Tattoo, her next collection, is forthcoming from Tebot Bach.

Four times nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The Comstock Review, Antietam Review, Jabberwock, The Literary Review, Solo, Rattle, River Styx, Pacific Review, Askew, California Quarterly, Confluence, Nimrod, Calyx, Blue Unicorn, Jacaranda Review, Manhattan Poetry Review, onthebus, Another Chicago Magazine, The Deronda Review, The Pedestal, The New Vilna Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Cultural Weekly.

Her poems have also been published in many anthologies, including Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, Truth and Lies That Press For Life, Invocation LA, The New Los Angeles Poets, Ghosts of the Holocaust, Grand Passion, Images from the Holocaust, Claiming the Spirit Within, The Cancer Poetry Project, and So Luminous the Wildflowers.

Among her awards are first prizes in the Poetry/LA Bicentennial, Sculpture Gardens Review, Mississippi Valley, Red Dancefloor, and the dA Center for the Arts poetry contests. She has also served as a judge for the Pen/USA Literary Awards.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury