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,
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 Review, Love 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