The Art Teacher

After Robert Bliss’s Boy at the Barn (1964)

Robert Bliss painted Boston
Brahmin boys, his students

at Deerfield, each destined
for halls of plenty and power.

I’m sure he asked permission
to capture the lines of each

boy’s bare chest, the shadows
cast by hipbones on the tips

of their tight swim trunks.
Here he has a boy, posed

in plain trunks nowhere
near water, beside a barn,

and I feel like I have broken
into a private moment—no,

an intimate one charged
with desire, with sex or

at least the idea of sex, each
stalk of goldenrod fully bloomed.

The boy’s legs are spread
and his arms behind his back:

no resistance, complete trust
for his teacher to preserve

each part of his becoming
on canvas. His face is turned

away, and we can’t see
into his eyes, a sign, perhaps,

that he is unreal or just off-
limits; the source of desire

but beyond its limit.  I wonder
if Bliss ever forgot a boy’s name

or if, at graduation, when each
blue-blood’s name was called

he pictured them posed, learning
to be adored and to be beautiful?

About the Author:
Douglas Ray is author of He Will Laugh, a collection of poems, and editor of The Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South, which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. A graduate of the M.F.A. program at The University of Mississippi, he teaches at Western Reserve Academy, a boarding school in Hudson, OH.

About the Series:
All Accounts and Mixture is an annual online feature celebrating the work of LGBTQ writers and artists. For this series, we seek work from authors who self-identify as “queer,” while acknowledging that this designation is subjective and highly personal. Our goal is to provide a forum for writers whose voices might be mis- or underrepresented by the literary mainstream.