Madame Manet Plays for her Husband

Her face veiled in her task,
she played for him.
Slumped in his chair
he listened.

To his mind
came a sky,
far off and pale green,
and thin and taut.
It was not a sky he owned,
he’d not kept desolate things.

In youth he’d kept a
fuller woman,
brown, musty,
and altogether
deeper of breath
and bouquet than his wife.

But he’d retreated from the
too full bloom of that woman,
her heavy drooping bulbs,
reminded him
of over-sexed gardens,
of painful decay in the
sickly sweet scent.

Instead, he’d built himself
this cozy drawing room,
given it a housemate,
a tamer animal,
maintained them both,
though they were full
of abandoned fevers.
And his wife played for him now,
these dried-up bouquets,
these frayed skies.

And for her, playing to break the silence,
how this instrument was
all the language that remained to her.
This domestic scene she’d lived
had emptied her
and now her chest was
the sounding board of her
fury and her music.

Deadly still,
she plunged these barbs into him,
and he took them
and only dove deeper
into dreams of
marauding archipelagos.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2013


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