BERTHE MORISOT by Edouard Manet and Salvatore Buttaci
Painting by Edouard Manet (1873)
Poem by Salvatore Buttaci (1994)
"Too much yellow!" I tell the painter.
"You've made me out to appear
some pasty-looking, half-dead
matron who has never seen the sun!
Devotees of art one day
will stand before this canvas
and wonder: 'Did Madame Morisot
have a heart of wax to match
the sallowness of her face?'"
Where will I be then to defend myself?
Long dead, no doubt,
somewhere in the other world
where the shade of one's complexion
will certainly not be the local gossip,
nor a discussion tète à tète
about the worthiness of Manet's work.
So all I mean to say I shall say now:
Blame Manet! Blame the early afternoon light
that he insisted shine through the open doors
on to my face.
Blame the paucity of his palette:
The paucity of his palette...
I do like that. A line for a poem one day.
Did I tell you I am a poetess and a painter?
Oh, yes! All the more reason I am upset.
A poetess is filled with life:
A painter creates life, still and otherwise.
the rosiness pats her face like a kind of rose.
Her eyes glitter as though God wished they be stars
and they were stars.
No, the painting is all wrong.
The absence of color in my face,
the emptiness in my eyes.
Just look at them! Brown dabs of paint
and nothing else: windows of the soul indeed!
And why the unkempt strands of hair across my forehead?
Monsieur, why did you repeatedly insist
that I comb back those strands?
And smile, you said. Smile?
You call this a smile?
More the look of a woman lost in daydream,
a woman staring with dead brown eyes?
A woman dressed in funeral dress,
a silly black bow tie around her yellow neck!
Why did you ask me then
to wear my finest dress of white?
What will they think of me?
This much I will insist:
My heart is not made of wax!
I am Madame Berthe Morisot,
the wife of the inspector,
mother of Claudine and Rene'.
In my church it is I
who volunteers each Sunday
to lead in the singing of the hymns.
A heart of wax? Hardly, Monsieur Manet!
Within my breast beats a heart
Did you not see that
when you took your brush to paint me?
Why did you not say:
"Madame Morisot has a heart of gold
and eyes that twinkle when she speaks,
and her skin--
oh, it is pink and soft as petals
of the rose!"
The above poem first appeared in my book Impressions: 13 French-Painting Poems (Saddle Brook, NJ: New Worlds Unlimited), 18-21.
Salvatore Buttaci’s two collections of flash fiction 200 Shorts and Flashing My Shorts are both published by All Things That Matter Press and are available in book and Kindle editions at http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/sambpoet
His new book If Roosters Don’t Crow, It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems http://tinyurl.com/76akl73
Buttaci lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.