Joanne Durham: “Homage to Angelica”

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Homage to Angelica


No bloodline connects me  

to English gentry,  

but she is my foremother, too,

this woman adorned in flowing gown,
  

rose-woven garlands that sweep into auburn curls. 

Here she is: secluded with her alter-egos

to debate her future. One gently mocks the other,  

the second shows conviction, finger pointed 

toward her passions

as boldly as Moses’s staff 

signaled the Promised Land.  

I sensed her presence

as I donned the required skirt for dinner  

at my women’s college in the ‘60s, supposed  

to earn an MRS degree, or failing that,

to choose  

between secretary, teacher, or nurse. Instead,  

my friends and I sequestered

in the janitor’s closet, moved aside  

brooms and stacked pails, 

to strum guitars and write lyrics exploding

into a world we had yet to imagine.  

I decorated my dorm room 

with Picasso’s Lovers, Bob Dylan’s

haloed hair glowed from the ceiling. 

But ancient women swam in my veins, 

witches who brewed

potions centuries old, healing woes 

no one dared name. Here remains 

the artist who discarded

the coy smile she flashed at her suitors 

and painted herself  

into the right to choose her future.

About the Author: Joanne Durham is the author of To Drink from a Wider Bowl, winner of the 2021 Sinclair Poetry Prize (Evening Street Press, 2022). Her chapbook, On Shifting Shoals, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her poems have or will appear in Poetry East, Third Wednesday, Calyx, Rise-Up ReviewLove in the Time of COVID Chronicles, and numerous other journals. Please visit https://www.joannedurham.com/ for more about her background, publications and awards. 

Image Credit: Angelica Kauffman “Self-Portrait Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting” (1791) Public Domain

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