Young Female Spectator, circa 1890

by Tiffany Tondut

At dinner his eyes run over me like gravy. Duck skin
crackles under the silver embracing of forks;
fragrant meat, soft as steam, slides off loose as silk in a heap.
My new mistress is kind but she likes to drink and talk
too much in petite banalités: “organic ovenware – the newest in”.
Sauvignon Blanc?
He lingers, tilts his glass towards her and her mouth shrinks.
It seems she can’t take his eyes off me.
Makes me think how he’d first discovered me in the games room.
Escapist animal, thrashing on my back –
paws pretending, plaits unpinned and the flouncing thwack
of a gay puppy’s tail, played up to by my taffeta tease.
‘Girl with a Pekinese Dog’, he might have called me,
were it not for his lacquer-cracked boots butting in on our game,
my little friend cowering off and me, upright on my knees –
his iron-clad feet steaming red hues into my cheeks like fillets of apple.
I see you’ve met Ana. My mistress finally concedes.
Poor neglected… couldn’t bear to leave without her.
Found her hanging in a barn. The artist must have known
who she was – I mean, it lacks interesting composition, but…
Wine rushes into his mouth; together our palettes burn.
How carefully he touches me with his eyes.
How we might embrace, could my locks only curl about those fingers.