french courtesan 1890

Costly, composed, a living poem, she sits
in layer on layer of sumptuous silk
and white lead face paint. Waiting alone
by a great gold screen showing egrets in snow,
she leafs through an album of prints. Her fingers
pause on one where shellfish divers   
rest on a rock. Supple as otters     
they’re idly kicking their feet in the water...

City dweller’s fantasies
of rural freedom! She can just
recall that grinding poverty
from childhood days, before her mother
sold her in a time of hunger
to this lit cage in the pleasure quarter.   

Edmund Prestwich
If you have any thoughts on this poem,   Edmund Prestwich would be pleased to hear them.