The Red Kimono
(after Claude Monet, La Japonaise,1875)
This is a role I can play really well,
at least as well as M. Monet plays the role
of Painter; I have never been to Japan,
any more than he has, but the Orient
is all the rage in Europe, even my poor
myopic husband has observed that fact,
so he paints me in this scarlet kimono,
with its grinning sword-wielding demon
looking exactly like a mediaeval brigand
seeking enemies to behead or travellers to rob.
Some things do not change, I know why
Gascons were called ‘skinners’, what they
did to my ancestors, what this demon would
if he could free himself from my kimono,
how M. Gauguin would fantasise himself
into that world, how he wants to escape
to the Orient, or an island full of nubile
girls who would see him as exotic. Oh la la.
But my Claude knows better, I am still
the same person I was this morning,
even in a blond wig, the same Parisian
I have always been, but he assures me
there are rich Americans & English Milords
who will pay as much for this day’s work
as they do for anything by Fantin-Latour.
I do not care, I will never see the finished
work, and I get to keep this kimono.
So I am not sad today, not even bored
yet, although my back hurts as usual,
I am looking forward to my free lunch.