Portraits of Other Women: John Singer Sargent exhibit, AIC
Her russet hair is hidden in the dark folds
of window curtain; the long white neck
catches the sunlight streaming in below,
the deep blue dress velvets her shoulders,
waist, and spills upon the floor--
a carpet of Persian red and yellow:
Louise Lefevre, 30, in 1882.
Mrs. Hammersley, in carmine,
wasp-waisted even in heavy felt:
how was this portrait ever sold
within her lifetime? the slim silk slippers
peek out to ask.
Evelyn, Mrs. Marshall Field:
Before the divorce, before her eyes
sank more deeply into the slim face,
before late middle age saw her sit
with her small spaniel for other painters,
she was taken, almost a girl,
in charcoal: the angelic head
haloed in short blond waves--
Athena’s face, but more serene.
The soft gaze sees her future,
her left hand, foreground, firmly bent,
just touches her heart:
The good was never worn out of her.
Assured in worldliness from London
to Moscow, cheeks as pink as
her favorite chair, lips as firm and plush--
her eyes and sharply pointed coronet
forbid all gentle thought.
Mrs. Swinton, Elizabeth Ebsworth:
the cumulo-nimbus of her satin
seems more delicately beautiful
in the shading and tracery of the wall.
Lina Cavalieri is on her way
in black with silver fox:
She waves happily, late for a Winter tea;
you cannot catch her eye--
quick and light as the artist’s brushstrokes
on the canvas whose sisters
all became sails, taking their summers,
as Lina once, on the blue-white Sound.
La Carmencita, imperious in her gold
pearled dancing dress, the paint
as if impastoed by flamenco heels,
her chin, at five feet even
pointed above us all.
A russet sky, the whitened thistles
dance before their burning.
Gene Fendt is a poet and a professor of philosophy.
The Ekphrastic Review
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