When Matisse was in Morocco, he took up rowing. This presented a problem, because there wasn’t enough water around. So he lay in his bed and used his imagination. He held a brush in each hand and sat on a palette. The gentle curves of his windows became the spans of the bridges under which he had passed. The water was calm, but he had trouble keeping the boat steady as he picked up speed. “Damn this mattress,” he said. “It is not sufficiently firm.” He tried sitting on a carpet, but it was too uncomfortable, too hard. Later, he experimented with canvas. But the canvas, however much he pulled and pulled to make it taut, could never support his weight. At times he became frustrated, and cursed himself. “Damn,” he would say. “Why wasn’t I more like Picasso. Why didn’t I take up architecture, like Picasso.” But he persisted, and eventually made his way back to France.

First published in The Bridge, a Journal of Fiction and Poetry.
C 1997