By balancing these conflicting needs,
Matisse has become a calm sea of lux and volupte
stretching out to a blue horizon, swirling around the shores of a green island.
The wind blows across the sea of Matisse, scuffing the surface, making a mist.
The mist of Matisse rolls into Provence and settles over Nice.
It embraces the trees, the houses, the beaches, but most of all the women.
The mist of Matisse blends with the light of Provence,
creating a luminous nebula of desire,
a swirling sensuality that brings out all the beauty of the light,
making a radiance on the skin that glows in the brain like a cool fire.
Here in Nice Matisse can make happiness his religion.
The sun is essential to Matisse’s well being.
Every morning he waits as it mounts the heavens like a god.
Matisse’s coolness lures the sun into his studio,
its rays get stuck at random to the haphazard canvasses.
Matisse fills every jar he can find with sunlight
which he later pours into the dough of his daily bread.
He feeds his models with this bread, and it makes their images more luminous.
Dealers and critics alike are baffled by the incandescence of his pictures.
They want to know how he mixes his colors.
Matisse smiles slyly.
Picasso tells a reporter from Le Monde that Matisse has made a bargain with the devil.
The reporter’s editor deletes the quote, fearing litigation.
Matisse hears of it anyway, thinks about breaking off with Picasso.
He captures more sunlight, and his fame grows.
Matisse is a man of many eyes, one for each day of the week,
and they must all be fed by the colors of beautiful women.
Out of eye one he admires the coffee-colored Moroccans.
From eye two he caresses the lambent limbs of Parisians.
With eye three he envelops the odalisques of Provence.
Out of eye four he ravishes Aphrodite’s sisters.
Into eye five flows the blackness of empty doorways.
Eye six is struck by the streaming light from balconied windows.
Eye seven looks into mirrors and beholds himself amidst his concubines.
With a sense of wonder Matisse finds his world overtaken by his models.
He studies their every move, notices every detail of their form,
feels the curves, slopes, clefts, hollows, rotundities, dips, bumps, bulges, swellings, pouches, nooks, pocks, pits, dimples, dents, arcs, creases
until he is completely engulfed by their flesh.
Countless breasts hang over him, rubbing against his face,
his fingers are tangled in their hair.
Bellies come slamming against him like the crashing cars of an endless freight train.
Giant thighs come thrusting at him, threatening to crush him into a bloody ooze.
His wonder turns to fear as he sees black spreading over every painting his has ever made.
He is caught tight somewhere in darkness, but he thinks of Jonah and smiles.
He too will be delivered.
Then there is an opening, light, a rush of wind,
and he has managed to slip through, free again, whole, still a man.
His fear has changed to bliss.
The wind returns and brings Time to meet the maestro
but the wind cannot stay.
Time sits alone on the terrazzo and takes in the view.
All the while he is thinking of what to say to Matisse.
Matisse emerges from his studio and they chat about the weather.
Lunch is served by a local girl dressed in a peasant blouse and cerulean skirt.
Madame Matisse joins them. She is dressed in a red frock.
The conversation turns to the Renaissance.
The sacred names of Michelangelo, DaVinci, Raphael, Botticelli
are uttered by the wind as it passes by and is gone again.
The word “masterpiece” falls from the sky, crashing onto the terrace.
No one mentions it. A reverential silence ensues.
Madame Matisse excuses herself and goes back into the house.
After coffee and liqueurs, Matisse takes Time to see his recent work.
Time does not appear impressed by Modernism.
An awkward silence ensues. Time leaves early.
Matisse goes out in search of Blue and Green.
He locates them in their favorite cafe.
He sits, sips a cognac, tries to listen
but cannot find much comfort in their company.
He grows tired. In despair, he leaves them and goes home to bed.
For several weeks Matisse is at loose ends.
Each night he dreams of half-naked Tahitian women dressed in flowers.
The wind sweeps over Provence as Time passes through.
Matisse is a man in a wheelchair with a pair of scissors.
He cuts flower patterns out of colored paper.
They fall to the floor and are ruffled by the wind.
White has entered his life. It has taken over a good deal of control from Red.
Blue and Green have been allowed to stay on limited terms.
They are kept at a distance.
White has created a great open space around Matisse,
enveloped him, erected a chapel over him, put him beyond the reach of Time.
Matisse takes comfort in White, as he once took pleasure in Blue and Green.
He has found his final reconciliation, his ultimate consolation, in White.
He is using everything he has learned to achieve an ultimate simplicity.
In White he has found not calm, lux and volupte
but a master who gives him sunlight and teaches peace.