The Mistress

Ignore what scholars write and how they’ve sieved
letters, the grit of facts, dry records, bills
for scrappy clues to how this artist lived.
They say she’s just his model, with few skills
beyond her gift for empty patient pose  -
fashionable, then.  One of the many
earning their bread by taking off their clothes,
those docile models who are two-a-penny
commonplace girls.  He had a wife.  So,  -  no,
she’s just his model.  Nothing more.  His wife
would know  (she kept his household strict), and though
one friend dropped hints, there’s nothing in The Life
to prove it either way.
                                    But look.  Just look:
at how his brush has teased her tangled hair,
those stokes along her shoulders, in the crook
of her soft arm, the intimacy where
he’s placed the thickest shadows.  Let your eye
join his along the curving of her spine;
linger along her wrist  (your fingers try
involuntary patterns down her fine
blue veins).  His brush strokes trace her pulse’s beat.
There’s love beyond his palate’s rich flesh-pink.
His art’s the proof, unprovable;  complete.

You must decide, whatever scholars think.

D. A. Prince

If you have any comments on this poem, D.A. Prince would be pleased to hear from you.