Lady Digby on Her Deathbed
"When does grief become wonder?"
His dear wife died in the night,
so young, so lovely, but the colour
gone from her cheeks
so they rubbed them to bring it back,
and called in his painter friend,
who posed her on an angle,
one eye slit open, as if
still sighted. Her lord never remarried.
The painting holds his grief.
Van Dyck lives on as well,
in shades of cream and white,
the soft rose of her lips.
Since his object was to console,
he stepped back in time to
the moment before her death.
Being expert with folds and shadow,
he opened the purple drapes,
the darkness she lies between,
and laid gold trim on her blanket,
scattered petals on the sheet,
the damask blooms she loved,
whose sharp cinnamon odor
fills the spousal room and pricks
our nostrils too, as with barely a hint
of a smile she draws her final breath.
This poem first appeared in Archives of the Air (Salmon Poetry, 2015)
John Morgan has published six books of poetry and a collections of essays. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and many other magazines. He has won the Discovery Award of the New York Poetry Center, and his Collected Poems, 1965-2018 will be coming out next year from Salmon Poetry. Morgan divides his time between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Bellingham, Washington. For more information visit his website: johnmorganpoet.com
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