The Dauphine’s Composure, by Jessica Kaiser

Her body is a mountain of stained silk

even when faced with standing in front of
the dusky backdrop of la campagne. 

Neck unblemished, unburdened by the bundle of fanned feathers
atop her powdered head.

(Portrait by Le Brun- stately)

The daughter of Maria Theresa
extends the folds of her fat fingers
to tie a silk ribbon around a rose’s stem,
ribbons around their thorny stems
so such beauty may be held,

that is, the fleshy pink of their petals
and of the Lady’s face,
though her lips are redder.

La campagne is just a screen away
and I can see thick ironed curls at the nape of her neck
sudden and shocking
beneath a halo of grey fleece.

But what do I know of style? 

She wears a slight smile,
charming, surely,
though I did see her sigh,
when no one saw,
and throw the rose back into the briar
and pick another
and no one could see her
shuffle a handkerchief under her skirts
brightly bedaubed
with a spot of blood.

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