Mr. J. S. Sargent deliberates…

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.

25/11/04   GM

2 Responses to “Mr. J. S. Sargent deliberates…”

  1. Deborah Barlow Says:

    Wow. What a compelling example of ekphrastic poetry. I’m sending several Sargent and poetry fans to read this. Thank you for posting this.

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    What on earth is ekphrastic?

    Bravo Stepford Wife,
    Your poem is perfect.
    I can just see the short and less than handsome M. Gautreau, slobbering over his idea of his trophy wife being advertised to the fashionable world in the Grand Salon d’Automne. At the same time, the moth like Madame X, Mme. Gautreau, is laughing behind her ashen mask as she languidly models for the ever so clever and beau J. S. Sergeant

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