Slightly to the left, you are sitting
in my best chair, an amazing blaze
of red velvet; its delicious sheen
picking up the crimson on your cheeks,
your laughing lips. You'd thought
long and hard about the hat, settled
in the end on the one from Mongolia
with its silver steeple and stately black.
Velvet again; so much of you smooth
and inviting, reckless and glorious.
We joke everyone will want to stroke you,
steal some of your magic. Meanwhile,
there are feathers - ostrich and peacock -
and you want to know how to sit
like Grace Paley or Mary Seacole,
feet firmly planted, plenty of space
and rich soil. Your eyes are dancing;
two moons dreaming of a bigger world
for our children, more trees hung with shoes.
See, Julia, see how you've managed it:
by telling the truth you cast a spell
and all the edges disappeared,
leaving no trace, no trace of a frame.
Linda France (pictured, right, with Julia Darling) was born in Newcastle and is an acclaimed poet. She won the Basil Bunting Award in 1988 and in 1989 and the Newcastle Brown Ale Poetry competition in 1993. She was also awarded the Arts Foundation's first poetry fellowship in 1993. She is currently working on her first novel, The Heart Sutra.
Last Portrait was written for the in Memoriam page that was set up on Julia Darling's website following her death on 13 April 2005.
Linda's latest collection is Aerogramme, bringing together poems from her travels in India and Sri Lanka, produced to raise money to support a Buddhist women's community in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
For more recent news from Linda, see her subsequent Poem of the Month, Gulls.
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
Last Portrait © 2005 Linda France: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.