Philip Alvaré

Cut Here

With foreknowledge of the guillotine
Would he have put a ruffle around the neck
Of the girl who was christened Marie Antoinette,
A fashion that suggests: Cut Here .

Liotard's portrait of the Archduchess in black chalk, pencil 
And watercolor, an augury on tissue-thin paper.
Distemper on the verso heightens colors bleeding through to carmine 
Crepe de chine flounces and bows in satin tulle spilling at hems and edges.

This imperial child's gaze is haughty, insouciant, half mocking
Her blue-gray Hapsburg eyes may twinkle when legs are pulled
Off beetles, crinkle the nymph-impish smile above a rosy décolletage
And a final doomed glimpse before thudding down into a basket.

Those eyes mirror blades of steel and crisscrossed ropes of diamonds
Or the gray of mourning doves, their collars as iridescent as her silks.
Strolling, rustling, the sound of an expensive gown mimicking
A pair of singing shears snickering grass around the Hameau .

A scythe that mowed down a meadow's worth of grain, a zing of lightning,
One thunderclap took that misbegotten head with violet twilight eyes
Round as a tumbrel's wheels, snared in a treillage of terror.

From a portrait of The Archduchess Marie-Antoinette of Austria by Jean-Etienne Liotard, from the exhibition at the Frick Collection, NY, 2006

 

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