A Portrait Of The Lady Elizabeth Oxenham
This salon needs a portrait of Elizabeth, to outshine
all my piebald, wholesome, pompous ancestry,
but she insists on posing in that russet, lampas gown
and holding to a Jincheng from the orangery.
Then there’s that rotten whippet, though I suppose
I shouldn’t blame the hound, he has been spoilt
by the rigours of the sitting room. She has him on the chaise,
feeds him titbits, by night he lies out on her quilt.
I wouldn’t mind his situation, if I could lie out under it
and have the lustful lady under me, but like
an English baker, she picks bloomers, not baguette
leaves me stroking crumbs and long awake.
I’ve always thought her far the better of the two;
he barely pays me any heed, except when coursing,
while she, at least and often, out of the blue,
fondles my ears, chucks my chin, as if rehearsing
strokes and little pettings she imagines.
When we sit before the fire, of an evening,
she talks like I was more than hound companion.
I crawl a little closer on the sofa, scent her breathing,
listen to her eyes, taste her fingers on my haunch.
She talks, but never says my name (like I’m homunculus),
in such sweet tones, I’m sure she’d wrench
the heart of any troubadour, but not that anus.
You have your uses; I admit I found you gallant,
when first we rode out, you on your starred stallion,
but even at our first reception, I saw your talent
to wear medals on your chest , with me your new medallion.
Oh, the boredom of this place, its nail-clipped hedges,
dead echoes in the rooms, the powder-boy footmen.
I took your name and all the hidden pledges
like you, in bed; the fallen ox of the Oxenhams.
This portrait you commissioned is of you as much as me:
your dog, your fruit, materials you dress me in.
My only solace is Mr Kneller’s brush, its tip and belly,
his tented smock, my flip-up merkin.
copyright © 2014 Simon Williams.
Highly Commended in Gladstone Library competition, 2014