His Red Room, by Pam Thompson
His Red Room
After the ice-palaces of St Petersburg,
his dining room chilled him, so he painted it scarlet,
confined blue to leaves and flowers
on walls and table, to a patch of sky
out of a window in the left-hand corner.
Closer inspection reveals a blue tinge
on his housekeeper’s collar,
counterbalanced by fierce tawny hair.
What are the fruits she arranges
with her long white hands?
Did she understand his blue mood?
Her head is a geisha’s, her body,
another kind of servant’s. From here
you can’t tell where the wallpaper
and tablecloth end, and she begins.
I am led, I do not lead. But by what? Oranges?
We can probably trust Apollinaire
who tells us he put faith in the power
of that sun-charged fruit; a gift,
with cakes and flowers, sent to Picasso
when he lay sick in the Boulevard Raspail.
then a crate, each subsequent New Year.
There they are, lined up on the table edge,
repeated in the colour of the woman’s hair.
He watches from the doorway,
thinks he’s unseen, but she knows he’s there,
chooses what looks like the ripest,
peels it, takes her time, licks juices
from her fingers. Mixing a precise shade of red,
he remembers— it was the smell that led him.
The orchard in Relleu—hot sun on my shoulders and neck on an afternoon
that could have gone either way. There’s nothing cold about this blue sky.
Last oranges on this tree look more like lemons—weathered, pale,
they’re braving it out before blotches of rot, passages of ants and spiders.
Wasps pester. Is that desperate love for the flesh farmers have rejected?
Almonds I’ve sprung from their husks will most likely stay in my rucksack
until way after Christmas. No place for these oranges in my fruit bowl--
a still life more entire on low branches, parched ground.
Pam Thompson is a poet, lecturer, reviewer and writing tutor based in Leicester. Her publications include The Japan Quiz ( Redbeck Press, 2009) and Show Date and Time, (Smith | Doorstop, 2006). Pam has a PhD in Creative Writing and her second collection, Strange Fashion, was recently published by Pindrop Press. email@example.com
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