M. Gautreau welcomes me into his gilded salon
where his pallid prize of a wife reclines
on a recamier
amid bombazine drifts of insipid mauve.
He is eager to memorialize his passion
for this limpid creature
with her sharp-nosed profile
and pronounced overbite.
“Capture her glamorous essence,
her entrancing simplicity”
requires this amorous husband.
He wishes for tout le monde
to celebrate his good fortune, indeed
to smite them in the face with this fact
by entering the portrait in the Salon d’Automne.
The title is to be “Madame Gautreau”.
How best to present this white-skinned beauty?
She has spent her life indoors, it seems.
No sunshine has sullied her cheeks
with lively freckles or vital blush.
No exertions have strengthened
her slight supple body, for
she moves like a languid wraith
through a sluggish atmosphere.
How to express the value of this creature
to a man whose every act is
of acquisition, amassing treasure?
She cannot be presented as a bon bon
set amid frills and laces,
to be selected at whim from among
many other such sweets.
She needs a more beguiling setting!
Ah, a glowing, lamp-lit, pale lunar moth,
whose vellum wings are dusted
with a powdered light.
She needs to touch upon the ground,
as if pausing, silent, soft, in mid-flight,
yielding a glimpse, a glance
of fleeting elegance
that will quickly disappear into night.