Sue Hubbard Woman Bathing in a Stream
Rembrandt
Woman Bathing in a Stream
Woman Bathing in a Stream

After Rembrandt

Some days Bathsheba or Danaë,
voluptuous and bangled
on her cushioned ottoman. But this evening,
her linen chemise crumpled high
against wide hips, the loose
sleeves carelessly rolled, she paddles
the stream, simply herself, Hendrickye.

Florentine brocade, mulberry damask
from Uzbekistan, she leaves the tumbled rugs,
steps in the pool, her body warm, the smell
of him lingering still between her thighs.
His eyes absorb the creamy solid flesh,
those familiar dimpled knees. He makes
no judgment on her nakedness.

Times she has posed for him;
out of love, not an interest in his art,
just as each morning she pours his ale,
chops pickled herrings, slices coarse black bread,
nights warmed his bed since Saskia died.
Nurse to small Titus, what difference,
opening her ample arms to him as well.
No matter others find him strange.

Soon dusk will turn to night, wood-smoke
and a Gouda moon hang over the gabled house.
She turns to her mirror, combs out her hair,
prepares for sleep, sees other selves reflected
in her glass: the sandy freckled skin. Let him
wrap her in chiaroscuro if he must – grey morning
will find him seeking the warmth of her bed.

From Everything Begins with the Skin
published by Enitharmon 1995

 

 

Sue Hubbard Remembering Laugharne
Dan Llywelyn Hall
Remembering Laugharne

In memory of Dylan Thomas

How odd, after all these years
to return to the boathouse as the dawn mist
rises ghostly as a lapwing’s heart-cry

to lure daybreak from the grieving dark,
and catch the ghost of you out on the mudflats
in your old tweed coat

whelking for poems:
my beast, my angel, my fat little fool.
On these tidal reaches

Where Taf, Towy and Gwendraweth
meet and boats lie beach in
a silver throat of brackish water,

I danced barefoot, gathered cockles
In the hem of my long skirt, salty vulvae
to boil in a broth for you on the black iron stove.

At night, in our pink bedroom
you sucked me clean amid a musk
of winter apples, spilt bottles of ale.

Rats scuttled in the privy. Bath-time
I’d lay out dolly mixture in the soap tray,
scrub your plump baby’s back.

Unruly children we clung together
in an adult world. But with the rage,
the drinking, an innocence was lost.

That morning I found you dying across
an ocean, they strapped me in a straightjacket
for smashing the hospital crucifix.

Still I see your curly head against
the regulation pillow. Those little
fin-like hands curled on the white sheet.

 

 

Sue Hubbard Woman The Painters Family
Giorgio de Chirico
The Painter's Family
The Painter’s Family

after de Chirico

She is edgy today
her nerves all jangled,
synapses stretched taught as hamstrings.

The baby’s mouth opens again
a grey mollusc, the blue bruise
of colic staining its lips.

The cracks are showing.
She is becoming as crazed as the glaze
on her grandmother’s plates.

She cannot carry on like this.
Her lap is too shallow, her arms
not long enough to hoop up the excess.

For he is busy. He has work to do
renewing the chipped mortar
in a wall of angles and silence.

Mute and deaf they have bound
themselves with winding sheets, filleted
down to white bone old fleshless words.

Now she must stuff the gaps, smooth
the pollyfilla’d crevices in her face.
Vinegar and brown paper will no longer do.

In the orange evening dust
she cannot open her crammed mouth
must drown her thin cries, her dim bleatings.

From Everything Begins with the Skin
published by Enitharmon 1995

 

 

Sue Hubbard Woman The Convalescent
Gwen John
The Convalescent
The Convalescent

after Gwen John

They have changed the white cloth, soaking
out the dark stain with salt. I hardly
remember days that were different, filled
with the sweet diversions of work.
Time is measure now
in poultices and lint. Below my window
the same hens scratch the same dirt,
borage and shallots bloom in the herb garden.

Hours stretch faded, formless
and I inhabit the waste lands
behind my eyelids where there is colour
for my body is white, my limbs thin
as saplings, my hair has lost its walnut sheen.
Once the bodice of this calico dress
clung tight across my apple breasts,
now it hangs like a nun’s blue folds.

All morning I sit by the window
read, write letters to my cousin;
outside children’s voices shatter
holes in a duck-egg sky. Lilac shadows,
long and dark as a bruise, stretch
across my room, camphor and crushed
violets fill the throttled air,
on my table a pink cup and saucer of camomile tea.

From behind drawn blinds sunlight needle-
points the satin gloom. My skin is grey
as old pastry. In my wicker chair,
with the down cushion plumped to the small
of my back, I dream of the impossible sun
high over courtyard and dovecot
illuminating the frailties of small lives,
baking the cracked roofs of barns.

From Everything Begins with the Skin
published by Enitharmon 1995

 

 

Sue Hubbard Woman The Kitchen Maid
Johannes Vermeer
The Kitchen Maid
Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid


An Easter light, watery as whey, spills
from the high window, catches the rim
of her linen cap, its white gulls’ wings,
the coarse cross-stitch of yellow bodice
against her apron’s blue, the sleeves
rolled to elbows against curdy skin.

Already she has raked ashes, broken bread
for him from the willow basket with her big
raw hands. And in the oyster-grey morning
while the house sleeps, Vermeer’s woman
pours warm milk from terracotta
jug to crock in silent communion.

She is mistress here,
moving with slow deliberation through
these daily tasks: her quiet meditations.
On the table beside her is spread
a Delft flagon of ale, a cloth; on the wall
a wicker creel, new polished brass.

Did he love her? Who can say?
As in the chill dawn he lifts his brush
to catch that creamy curve of brow
the shadow on her lowered lid where
sable tufts stroke, soft as her cool
fingers on fresh laundered ecru.

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