—after an image by René Gruau
From behind, she created a half-formed impression
that lingered like a carelessly executed letter,
or an incomplete Chinese character—who could tell?
Seeing her struggle with the voluminous luxury of her cloak—
men hurried from across the room, just as they had hurried
to light her fragrant cigarettes in their impossibly long holders.
Yet despite her magnificent way of ignoring the men,
fiddling with her mantle like Nero while they burned,
despite her pristine gloves, caressing her garment’s soft folds,
despite the elegance of her bare back, peeking
over the top of the wrap, despite the black bow holding her hair
neatly at the nape of her neck, like a kiss—despite all this,
there was something careless in the billowing material
that tossed in her wake. Whelmed in siren undulations,
the men felt lost and adrift long after she left them.
by Lorna Wood
Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem’s brilliant imagery constructs a narrative of character that is both seductive and surprising in a world where beauty is often misconstrued.