"mourning becomes her"
Hers, that first intimacy, warm-giving the flesh:
I am torn from the loaf.
A chip off the old block, He leering bully,
fool, imagines me Electra: diminishment of his image.
She attends to her duties, rigidly.
She, always busy apologises to him, for the world.
Her pillow on the window sill every morning:
left out to dry.
She deplores complainers - it is undignified,
for the dull-witted to suppose "they" condescend to care.
She stands upright, pinches her cheeks for color
despite bones displaced by corsets, despite the lack of air.
Novelists are busily creating the notion of the ideal
suitor, personable, honorable, the courage to dare
tenderness. Less fortunate lasses pine away, or
deliver a son then die.
Scorn is a swinging door. She
advises never to cry, "it only invites contempt my dear"
But Mother, every morning your pillow is wet,
"Only in my sleep; the soul retaliates."
Father has accepted my future spouse
a friend of his youth, in payment of debts,
a known debauchee, The Count.
They congratulate each other.
My glory box is prepared, of all things in it I value most
this gift from my mother, a small bottle of white powder;
"in case it is unbearable" she says patting my hand.
Strangely, this is entended for me, not him.
My stays tightened I pinch my cheeks and lips;
on the wedding morning the glory box is carried before me
down the stairs, cached amongst the rags
belladonna, a floral nighty, new underwear.
I will give up my fathers name gladly, there is a tear
in his eye for my maidenhood, his pride. In the
gilt-edged mirror on the landing I observe my reflection:
I will look good in black - white is not my color.