The masters laboured – all the hours of the clock –
to clone the ringlets of a marchioness or pull
a cape of dark around the head of an ecstatic saint.
Portraiteers talked low and long to captive sitters,
so Boleyn’s swan neck can still be kissed, Jill
persist in a steel blue frock, the year my parents met.
And in Sous Bois, Corot threw down a lilac twister
of a sunstreak, through which the bonneted girl
is ever about to step, daydreaming of candied fruit.
Day yields to dusk. The artful lie takes awful work.
We strive words from the loath core of our will:
You will be loved again. Everything’ll be all right.
Roddy Lumsden’s most recent collections are Terrific Melancholy (Bloodaxe) and The Bells of Hope (Penned in the Margins). He is Poetry Editor for Salt and Series Editor of the Best British Poetry. He lives in London.
Poem previously featured in Edinburgh Review 137 – Haggis Hunting: fifty years of new playwrighting in Scotland.