To Gainsborough, by Kate Rigby
Tiring of face painting, your confounded ugly creatures,
you retreat to your old landscape love.
Great loose sweeps of your brush describe,
without precision, the indifferent, darkening sky.
The afflicted tree extends its blighted stumps
which, viewed from the cottage in its glady dell,
stands for the damaged, dirty soldier limping
unrecognised, uncompensated, home from cruel wars.
But this won’t pay the rent. Your swimmy, silken sheen
conjures a child, both ragged and fancy.
Shame on you, Thomas, to so exploit the rural poor.
Mood music of humility and gratitude seeps out,
just what your buying public wants to hear.
As the oval of her curls frames the shining sadness of her face,
so must your generous heart
have been constrained to paint her so.
But, Thomas, I accept the rough unfinished hands
and little slippered feet
as your apology.
Kate Rigby is a part-time poet and part-time historian, living in Manchester and luxuriously dividing her time between researching for the National Trust, creating displays in a historic library, and reading (and less frequently writing) poetry for her own pleasure. Kate has had poems published in journals such as Antiphon, Scrittura, Cannon’s Mouth and this month she appears in an anthology of Manchester poets writing about Peterloo.
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