Mary Cassatt. Two Studies.

Tom+MomI. PATIENCE
[After “Young Thomas and His Mother” — pastel]

She props him on the couch  after his nap.
He’s damp and warm. He whimpers, will she let
Him see her necklace? Afternoons are wet
And heavy since July. He finds her lap
Too sweltering, her dress does not feel nice
Against his skin. He much prefers the cold
Metallic chain, the locket made of gold.
She sniffs his tender arm, that sweet, rare spice.

He’s glad Papá has gone away for now —
Mamá reclines her head and pays no heed
To passing time, dexterity or speed.
Unlike Papá’s “let me. I’ll show you how,”
She quietly lets him try. The halves divide
A little world with ticking hands inside.

cassatt-letter

II. THE ENVELOPE
[after “The Letter” — color print with drypoint and aquatint]

Olivia’s at her desk and vainly tries
To end a letter carefully begun,
Inviting him (nerves flash behind her eyes)
To come to tea next week at half-past one.
The wallpaper creates a little park,
A curling hedge of safe, ungiving thought,
Her dampened brow knits rows of question marks
Entwined with wisps of hair. Her throat grows hot

At sealing up the letter with her tongue —
So intimate an act will never do.
And yet she doesn’t like to keep a sponge,
Endures, instead, the pungent taste of glue.
She lays the letter down upon the blotter
And smooths her bodice, while her throat grows hotter.

— Leslie Lasher Monsour (a college friend and terrific formalist poet)
(from her book of poems, The Alarming Beauty of the Sky)
For a copy of this book, contact Leslie at <metermade@hotmail.com>  [Red Hen Press sucks!]

Note: this post was inspired by a wonderful exposition of Mary Cassatt’s etchings (and one lithograph) at the NY Public Library (the big one on 5th Ave.)

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