The Artist’s Wife
by Theodora Goss
She made the appointments, writing them
in a black ledger: Mrs. Sutton-Jones,
Countess Baransky, the Honorable Maude Rudge.
She was the only one he trusted to clean the studio.
He would not accept a maid, who might be careless
or even worse, curious,
touching his paints, his palette, or his easel,
on which the Honorable Maude was propped,
drying into immortality.
Sometimes he asked her to mix his pigments,
stirring the powders into linseed oil,
cadmium, cerulian, umber,
She has never put a brush to canvas,
but in her daughter’s bedroom,
painted ivy climbs one side of the fireplace,
winds in a riot of curls and tendrils
over the mantel and then trails back down
the other side. Among the leaves
hide squirrels and robins.
Above the mantelpiece is an owl, staring
with eyes like moons.
Low down, close to the floorboards,
a black cat slinks toward a mousehole,
so lifelike you would expect it to arch its back
and rub against your ankle, meowing.
The curtains are embroidered with red poppies,
the bedspread is appliqued
with silver stars.
She will tell you that her husband is the artist,
not she — that she just likes to work with her hands,
sew and embroider, even paint a little,
nothing serious, decorative work.
When she and her daughter bake together
in the kitchen, so much smaller than his studio,
the tea cakes are shaped like roses
with icing made from powdered sugar
(The image is Karin Larsson by Carl Larsson.)