Adolphe Blondheim: The Decoration
The Widow Speaks:
So now I’m a widow who never was wife.
They present me a medal destined for him—
what use is beribboned silver in graves?
My fleeting lover must have told
his captain my girlhood name,
where to find me. Here, after years. . .
Our dark-eyed boy will inherit this
souvenir from a father he never knew,
who never acknowledged him. . .
He holds an enormous glass jug
floated ashore from the ship
that bore his father away
to fight in some stranger’s war
for a stranger’s cause, for adventure
or to escape his debts. But I have mine.
Our daughter picked oranges to fill a bowl
for we are hungry, but the artist wants
oranges for color, our faces so pale.
Maroon, my dress, but it looks black
as my hair, as my life. What lady works
as a model? I’ve kept on my clothes.
Has my darling abandoned others in other lands?
But he has acknowledged us.
It is we who continue to grieve.
Adolphe W. Blondheim, Decoration (American, 1888-1969)
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec: At the Café:
The Customer and the Anemic Cashier
None of my suitors interests me
for a long-term alliance, and those
who are interesting don’t suit—
too old or too young, too fat or too thin,
one lacks a job, another worships his work.
All love the absinthe I pour.
Those who intrigue me already have
wives with more money than I
and their feline claws leave scars.
I prefer men who beguile me with chocolates,
champagne and wondrous tales, but they spin on
and on, would love me all night
while I need sleep: must unlock the café at dawn,
mop the floors clean, count yesterday’s cash,
and splash on more perfume before my next dalliance—
Shopping Expedition, Paris
Her husband smiled, “Ton portrait est si bon!”
then as he left, hung it in the salon.
Ah! a note from her love, an avant-garde
artist: “I stopped by to leave you my card,
saw your old portrait—Comme tu étais belle!
Our paths crossed too late. . . I totalement fell—”
She writes what both know, don’t speak, don’t dare:
“We would have had a cyclonic affair,
made babies and art. . . Life gave us no chance. . .”
She sighs, cries, and savors their missed romance.
She needs brushes and bras (hers old as she)
so the carriage drives her to Monoprix
with her velvet purse and short shopping list.
Paint brushes aren’t cheap, but silk in her fist.
Lingerie is confusing, frightfully dear. . .
black lace two-for-one so her choice is clear.
She unwraps one ample black-lace brassiere,
pulls up black stockings, a spiderweb pair),
dons a carmine camisole though this dye
is made from beetles, crushed females who die…
To café au lait with her artist love—
Must dodge his fake halo that floats above
his head. . . He’s back from some duty-free aisle
where it’s too hot and bras are not in style.
Her lover’s herpetological bent
unnerves her, but now her beauty is spent
she’ll ignore his paint and turpentine smell
and hope that afterwards no one can tell.
Black lace worked years ago with quite a few. . .
Relieved his eyesight has now gone askew,
before she crosses that grim River Styx
she sets out for one more quick caffeine fix—
© Elisavietta Ritchie
Elisavietta Ritchie’s 17 books include Feathers, Or, Love on the Wing; Cormorant Beyond the Compost; Awaiting Permission to Land; Arc of the Storm; Elegy for the Other Woman; and Tightening The Circle Over Eel Country (won Great Lakes Colleges Association’s “New Writer’s Award”). Two of the poems included in this issue of Loch Raven Review, “Henri de Toulouse Lautrec: At the Café” and “Shopping Expedition, Paris” appear in her latest book, Tiger Upstairs on Connecticut Avenue (Cherry Grove Series, 2013).