I sit in thy shadow but not alone. Elizabeth Siddal
In my other life, I am the painter and not the model. I am not draped
in weeds with a crown of clover, there is no romance in frogs or fish,
no beauty in freezing on a bed of stones and snails. The men
who create know God. In my other life, I know the love of a few good
women. I chortle sonnets as easy as I guzzle porridge. No lectures of
“Eat, you are too skinny, remember if i must I can paint your body thin.”
It is my face they wanted, they want. Sad that beauty weeps kingdoms
from my own eyes. I will admit I pinched this life from the street like Gabriel
clasped a phrase to his bosom. But you will have the truth,
my pleasure is no match for them. Night after night, my lover cloaks
me in a gauzy-grey gown of mist, am I not beautiful when you know me
like this? I grow cold and ugly in this Hamlet bath water. I am more than
the dripping paint off a stiff bristle brush. Night after night, I dream
of my other life as a mother. This child sleeps inside me and together we
float as on lilies towards the smooth stones of the river. No, I see
they are white stars peering at us through the dark eyes of God.
Rose La Touche
You can only possess beauty through understanding it. John Ruskin
Presently, the drawing room opened, and Rosie came in. Rosie or Rose,
Lily or Fawn. She was not tall, nor short. She was perfect but alas a ten
year old girl. I could smell her before I saw her, the tresses on her
neck. She was Rose and I was ivy as I imagined us lying in a bed of petals.
She was a Rose with no thorns, a star gazer lily and me, her new Master.
I owned her. She owned me. Living is short, remembering these moments
is long. When she died horribly in love with Jesus and not me, madness
turning her china blue eyes into an empty glass, I felt like a broken winged
dove, no longer afloat in her eyes. I died with her. When my pet left,
my innocent fawn, my heart failed to summon a correct beat, I was pebbles
of rain pouring over barren soil. My Rose did have a thorn after all, the brutal
piercing of my heart. I was forbidden marriage, and always her teacher.
Rose, Rose, her curled petals closed forever to me, I swear I never touched her.
Day of the Dead
To honor him, to honor my general,
I draw a skull and crossbones
on each knee, wear my ribboned dress,
turquoise like my eyes, to the parade.
My name is Luz Corral de Villa.
My husband has been dead a long time.
He came into my mother’s store
when I was sixteen and a beauty.
He demanded blankets, bags of flour.
He told my mother he would have me too,
when his revolution was over.
He kept his promise and returned,
eyes flashing fire, pockets bulging silver.
He was shy when he took down my hair,
less so when he broke me like a bottle
of his clearest tequila.
How love stings.
You will think me a romantic.
There was no time for that. I cooked
for him, I fought those who called him
Once, a bastard patriot tried
to slit my husband’s throat. It was after
a night of wild stars, too much drink.
The assassin held the same knife
held under my breast during love-play.
I took the closest pistol I could find
and shot off his left ear, half his cheek,
splattering bits of teeth.
He howled under a coyote-moon, rode
his horse clear to Texas, died (I prayed)
along the way. What good is a man
with half a face?
Children rush at me as I walk the parade,
Pick at my ribbons with their grubby fingers.
They shake gourds painted with red devils,
black cats to scare away evil.
They should not fear me,
an old woman, a heroine—
married to a hero. I am
Luz Corral de Villa.
I may no longer
smell like daffodils or wet earth.
But with my general walking beside me,
I am not quite living, not quite among
He lives inside me and soon when
I am no longer waking, I will join him—
to sleep inside a mercenary’s mansion.