Poem introduction

Bonnard frequently painted his wife in the bath. She had a form of OCD, and in this painting, which took fifteen years, I was touched by the fact that when she actually died she'd never seemed to age.

Nude in Bathtub

 
after Bonnard
 
Between the edge of the afternoon
and dusk, between the bath’s white
rim and the band of apricot light,
she bathed, each day, as if dreaming.
 
From the doorway he noted
her right foot hooked for balance
beneath the enamel lip, body
and water all one in a miasma
 
of mist, a haze of lavender blue.
Such intimacy. A woman, two walls,
a chequered floor, the small
curled dog basking in a pool
 
of sun reflected from the tiles
above the bath. Outside
the throbbing heat. So many times
he has drawn her, caught the obsessive
 
soaping of her small breasts,
compressed the crouched frame into
his picture space, the nervy movements
that hemmed in his life.
 
The house exudes her still,
breathes her from each sunlit corner,
secretes her lingering smell
from shelves of rosewood armoires,
 
and the folded silk chemises
he doesn’t have the heart to touch.
And from the landing, his memory tricks,
as through the open door the smudged
 
floor glistens with silvered tracks,
her watered foot prints to and from
the tub where she floats in almond oil
deep in her sarcophagus of light.
 

from Ghost Station (Salt, 2004), © Sue Hubbard 2004, used by permission of the author.

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