They knew something about pleasure, too,
those painters—how well they understood
it may be compounded
of the simplest elements, the merest trace
of water or light.
Courbet's L'Origine du monde, for instance.
The bedclothes are thrust aside
and a woman's fleshy thighs
sprawl across the canvas toward you
as you approach.
Courbet studies his nude with the diligence
of a lover. And lets you see
in the reddish fur
at the body's threshold
a hint of wet
like the dab of white in the iris that lights the eye.
-- first published (as “The Origin of the World”) in Literary Imagination