Misconstrued, by Anne R. Kirchmier
I am elegance embodied.
Top-hatted, mustachioed, slim and tall,
the kind of son who makes his mother proud.
(If I had a mother.)
(But of course I don’t have a mother.)
(I’m paint on canvas, for God’s sake,
oily residue of brush strokes,
neither dead nor alive
nor memorable in any way.)
Do you see me? Actually notice me?
Do you know which one I am?
Of course not.
I’m interchangeable with all of those other brown-clad men.
I’m not in the background;
I am the background.
That’s my lot for all eternity,
birthed from an artist’s momentary whim.
I’m forever a foil, fettered to this canvas.
I am elegance,
empty and entrapped.
If I must be called into existence
only to be pinned in perpetuity to this canvas,
then I am grateful that Monsieur
depicted me so wholesomely.
as I appear:
refined, demure, respectable.
Had I a choice,
I would have selected this self-same hat
crowned with its ribbons of sunshine.
I would have chosen this luscious stole,
this tasteful clutch,
the flattering fall and hue of this rosy gown.
What I would not
was this setting, this company.
Look at that woman!
Not just bareheaded
(and doubtless perspiring),
lofting her skirt,
exposing what no self-respecting woman
would ever let the public see--
the frilly fringe of her petticoat,
those shockingly scarlet stockings,
the curve of her calves.
I wriggle with happiness.
I am still learning to sit and stay,
to roll over
(that’s one of my favourites!)
to lie down
(I’m less good at that)
and to fetch.
I’m too young to be still.
I bounce and run and jump and chase.
I’m mostly brown with some red highlights,
but why did master paint me in a dress?
And where’s my tail?
Anne R. Kirchmier
Anne R. Kirchmier is an Episcopal priest serving in Newport News, Virginia. Many years ago she taught middle school English in western Massachusetts, but it took the Covid-19 pandemic to draw her into her first-ever poetry class (on Zoom, of course). She has so much to learn and looks forward to learning it!
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