1994 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award

Winner: “Jo Painted” by Sarah Birnbaum
Final Judge: Richard Wilbur

Jo Painted

Josephine Hopper, the artist’s wife and model

Caught naked in a hurtful light, my hands
forever clutching pockets of the air
I brace against, I am the one who stands
engulfed by windows, smoking, waiting where
anyone can see me. I am she
who sits alone in furnished rooms, the shade
pulled halfway down; and that one there is me,
cringing in the doorway as a blade
of sunlight edges close. I can be seen
on quiet roads, hot pavements, moving trains.
You thought to paint me out, erase me, clean
the canvas of my spillage. You took pains
to wear me down, my skin becoming sheer;
you colored in my face with your own fear.


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