Francis Bacon Portret of Lucian Freud

Francis Bacon Seated figure 1961
Francis Bacon ‘Seated figure’ 1961

Poems after Francis Bacon

Anne Stevenson

for years he’s struggled to achieve it,
a position exactly at the centre
of his invisible frame.

the red carpet and expensive kirman
congratulate his shoes.
the rich blue furniture, discreet blue curtain,
push forward his expression of
resourceful authority, a farsighted
gaze to the future, though
tensely he holds in readiness
shortsighted spectacles – for details.

you can put your faith in me,
says the strong right shoulder,
but the left will not bear
the weight of responsibility;
he’s had to remove it
to centre the picture on

shift him three inches to the left
and everything’s lost.

Francis Bacon Three figures and Portrait
Francis Bacon ‘Three figures and portrait’

Anne Stevenson is American but has lived in Britain since 1964. her nine collections of poetry include Correspondences and The Fiction-Makers (Oxford University Press), a Poetry Book Society choice for 1985. A Selected Poems appeared in 1987.

Note: Poems after Francis Bacon are from a cycle of poems on works by the artists, published in The Other House (Oxford University Press), 1990.

Francis Bacon Portret of Lucian Freud
Francis Bacon ‘Portret of Lucian Freud’