Barbara Lydecker Crane

May Afternoons
    Miss Nelly O’Brien, by Joshua Reynolds,
    London, c. 1762-4

Though Nelly O’Brien is a courtesan,
she sits for me with ease and confidence.
Society winks at Nelly and her man,
the Viscount keeping her at great expense.
He recklessly commissioned me to paint her
concurrent with a portrait of his wife.
Though she’s unfaithful, too, I would not taint her,
or him, or Miss O'Brien–they chose that life.
I schedule sittings with the utmost care.
In atelier afternoons, this Nelly’s
warm and most attractive. Her candid stare
unnerves: as we converse my knees are jelly.
I paint the fluffy dog that’s in her lap–
would that I could nestle like that chap.

Girl with a Turban
    This was the original title of Johannes Vermeer’s painting
    now known as Girl with a Pearl Earring; Delft, 1665

I had my daughter pose. She was eleven
or twelve, and pleased to skirt her chores that day
as second mother to our other seven.
Paintings of exotic women pay
(and every grocer knows I’m short of cash)
and so I dressed Maria in a gold          
coat and wrapped two lengths of silken sash
around her head in turban style; each fold    
gleamed when I turned her head to catch the light.
To innocence I added some allure:
I had her lick and part her lips–not quite
prepared to speak–enticing yet demure.
Watching me with liquid eyes, she shows
a wary longing for all she almost knows.

Handsome Mares
    The Horse Fair, by Rosa Bonheur, Paris, 1852-55

Breathe in, and you might catch a whiff of dung
in the Paris breeze that ruffles trees and manes.
This equine pack at market runs high-strung,
resisting muscled men with handlers’ reins.
One pair of pearly mares–tails braided, bound–
flash sunlit, dappled flanks in matching pace.
As scores of hoofbeats gallop hardened ground,
do you feel your heart begin to race?
My heart beats best whenever I am sketching
creatures live or dead. In abattoirs
you’d never pick me out; I’m hardly fetching
in hat and men’s old clothes, with lit cigar
(for camouflage, not yen to be a male).
I’d sooner be a horse. End of tale.     

Barbara Lydecker Crane is the author of three collections of poems, some of which have appeared in Light, Measure, Think, and Writer’s Almanac, among many others. These sonnets are part a series, of which fifteen have been published, including one which was a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize and one in Ekphrastic Review, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives near Boston and is also a visual artist.



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