SALUT, MADAME CEZANNE for Hortense Fiquet, by Pegi Deitz Shea

Salut, Madame Cezanne
      for Hortense Fiquet
by Pegi Deitz Shea

At the Met, I bristle
through an exhibit
and call across the year
you’ve been dead:
Uncle Pierre,
as a young sculptor
in Ecole des Beaux Arts,
what did you make of
the Madame Cezannes?

In 29 portraits Hortense
fully buttoned-up
never smiles,
never smirks,
never seeks
a light with her eyes.
Did she have bad teeth?
Did her back ache
from sitting
still as an apple
for her husband
150 times per portrait?
Is she choleric
having been caché
for 17 years—
Paul too ashamed
of her low status,
afraid to lose
Papa’s allowance.

Pierre, in your hands,
she could not have
contained her mirth
nor you your mischief.
You would have
unbuttoned her,
untied her, undermined
the lines of her closed lips.
Clothed in clay,
your fingers would have
poured across the funnel
of her clavicles
trickled down her cleavage
waded into orchards
of neglected fruit.

Hortense, Pierre,
my muses, salut!
Now, here
in the Grand Hall
of the Met,
a jazz quartet
models the music
you dare to make
dimensions beyond
a brush stroke’s dream!

Pegi Deitz Shea teaches in the Creative Writing Programs at the University of Connecticut, the Mark Twain House in Hartford and the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her poetry for adult readers has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Earth’s Daughters and Connecticut River Review. Many of her award-winning books for young readers focus on human rights and social justice issues. Pegi’s website


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