The Comtesse d’Houssonville with Nature Morte

              After Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres,
             "Comtesse d’Houssonville”

She leans, composed, against the mantle’s edge
of a small upholstered fireplace sheathed in velvet.
She lets the light, hot and still in the summer room, blanche
those rotund arms and steal from them their contours.

She need not bless herself. Her gown is yards of silk
cascading from her waist to frothy flounce
of ruffle, ruched sleeves caught up with floppy bows.
She’s warm but would not think of seeming so. Her dress
speaks calmly of the hues of cloudless sky that soon
enough will deepen into evening’s shadow.

Already dusk has brushed her mirrored nape,
composing a still-life with the tawny melon-wedge
of upper back and shoulders, the oriental basket
of her braided, coiled hair held by a tortoise shell comb.
Blossoms of spendthrift rose and slender tulip
in cache-pots on the mantle seem the more replete
for being doubled in their reflection in the mirror.

A ribbon, scarlet as a rooster’s comb,
rides aside the coil of braid, its prominent rosette
descending into swags of graduated loops.
In that nature morte seen behind her in the mirror,
this opulence could be the crimson flesh of corrugated peppers
or the gash that scores the rabbit’s throat.

–lucia galloway

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