From the archives – Ellen Andreé Comments in a Letter to Her Sister on L’absinthe by Degas — David W. Landrum

Ellen Andreé Comments in a Letter to Her Sister
on L’absinthe by Degas

Of course I look dead drunk. I think that’s what
he aimed for—and, of course, he always got

the effect he wanted. I am staring out,
my eyes unfocused. Marcellin is the lout

beside me, puffing on a pipe, his eyes
scanning the room, as if for his next prize,

his next seduction. He has a soft drink,
I have a green cocktail—green, and I think

it’s called Absinthe. I’m not a connoisseur
of mixed drinks, so I’m not completely sure

that’s right. We both look stupid, but I guess
that’s what Monsieur Degas sought to express.

Painters are strange creatures—men who can look
on your bare form and never feel the hook

of lust snag in their flesh—like doctors they
can see you but not be carried away

with the desire most men feel in their blood
at a woman’s nakedness. I guess that’s good.

He’s never made advances—yet sometimes
I wonder if he even sees my charms

or thinks the parts of me that ravish men
might be a prize he’d go great lengths to win.

I’m getting off the subject. I’ll be down
next Saturday to see you in your town.

I’m glad to hear, thank God, Dafne, your child,
got over smallpox—that the case was mild.

To answer you, I don’t know if I’ll pose
for him in the future. As far as modeling goes,

I doubt if I can do it anymore.
I don’t like being painted as a whore,

and a drunk whore at that. As Crème de Menthe,
is always preferable over Absinthe,

modeling is dull; the stage is so much better.
I prefer acting. Now I’ll post this letter.

by David W. Landrum

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 19, October 2010

Painting by Edgar Degas, “The Absinthe Drinker.” 1876. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

From the archives – Easter Sunday, 1956 — David W. Landrum


Easter Sunday, 1956

In front of our Buick Roadmaster
with the grill that looked like Teddy Roosevelt’s teeth,
we are standing—my father, brother and I.
It is Easter and we’re ready to take off
for church—we did not normally go
but my mother must have talked my father into it.
We wear white shirts and clip-on bow ties;
my father’s shock of hair combed back;
my brother chubby-cheeked, our hair cut short,
tow-headed boys not used to dressing up.

It was a momentary innocence, that scene
on Easter Day—it felt like the apostles must have
felt when they saw (or thought they saw)
their Rabbi once more, come back from the dead;
their joy, their speechlessness as they saw him eat
some fish and honeycomb; their hope
he might, at this time, usher the kingdom in.

After that, they would all die martyr’s deaths:
James beheaded, Peter crucified upside-down,
Thomas killed in India. And things would change.
The church would organize; someone named Saul,
then later Paul, would take the faith
to the Gentiles and would write down things
hard to be understood, as Peter said.
And so it was with us. The ugly quarrels,
recriminations, then my Dad’s withdrawal,
my mother’s bitterness, our own thirty year’s
war that left the family fragmented,
children gone like refugees
to found new lives; my parents, though,
at peace, like two exhausted nations too bankrupt
to keep on fighting. All this had not yet come.

That day in Spring saw a lily’s innocence
in white shirts and blond hair, bow-ties striped red,
and promise rising from a borrowed tomb.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 17 — by David W. Landrum

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Twitter: @davelaureate

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim