Jill Gardiner is a former Chair of Brighton Poets, whose work has been published in The Interpreter’s House (2015) and ARTEMISpoetry (2018). Also a historian, known for From the Closet to the Screen – Women at the Gateways Club 1945-85 (Pandora 2002).
after the painting by Mary Cassatt
I have seen her each night from afar
Across a salon, or in some distant room
And often on his arm. And, tonight,
I have followed her to the opera.
In the picture, you do not see her:
Her bare shoulders; the three strings
Of pearls I gave her; the shock
Of that white muslin dress in November.
You only see me in my tight black gown,
And my opera glasses fixed on some point
Beyond your sight, and the yellowing fan
I am hardly holding. Any moment now
My grip will tighten as she turns
From him and catches my eye again.
One time she blushed. We are rarely alone.
Our intimacy is confined to public places.
In a distant box, you see another man:
Where I go, he follows. And grown so bold
That his opera glasses are trained on me
As if that whole wide audience were not there.
I have heard them whisper in the drawing rooms:
‘She’s handsome still, and alone too long.
Why does he wait?’ He has asked. I freeze.
I am spoken for and cannot say to whom.
First published in The Western Mail (among other winners in the 1992 Cardiff International Competition)
and subsequently in The North 1992.
With Some Wild Woman – Poems 1989-2019, 2019, Tollington Press, ISBN 978-1-90934-716-8 (due out 15th November). For details of launch events, please email Jill.
Copyright© of all poems featured on this site remains with the poet