Autumn Sky Poetry . . . Number 19 . . .

Ellen Andreé Comments in a Letter to Her Sister

on L'absinthe by Degas

     by David W. Landrum
     art: Edgar Degas’ “The Absinthe Drinker.” 1876. Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.

Of course I look dead drunk. I think that’s what

he aimed for—and, of course, he always got

the effect he wanted. I am staring out,

my eyes unfocused. Marcellin is the lout

beside me, puffing on a pipe, his eyes

scanning the room, as if for his next prize,

his next seduction. He has a soft drink,

I have a green cocktail—green, and I think

it’s called Absinthe. I’m not a connoisseur

of mixed drinks, so I’m not completely sure

that’s right. We both look stupid, but I guess

that’s what Monsieur Degas sought to express.

Painters are strange creatures—men who can look

on your bare form and never feel the hook

of lust snag in their flesh—like doctors they

can see you but not be carried away

with the desire most men feel in their blood

at a woman’s nakedness. I guess that’s good.

He’s never made advances—yet sometimes

I wonder if he even sees my charms

or thinks the parts of me that ravish men

might be a prize he’d go great lengths to win.

I’m getting off the subject. I’ll be down

next Saturday to see you in your town.

I’m glad to hear, thank God, Dafne, your child,

got over smallpox—that the case was mild.

To answer you, I don’t know if I’ll pose

for him in the future. As far as modeling goes,

I doubt if I can do it anymore.

I don’t like being painted as a whore,

and a drunk whore at that. As Crème de Menthe,

is always preferable over Absinthe,

modeling is dull;  the stage is so much better.

I prefer acting. Now I’ll post this letter.


David W. Landrum teaches Literature at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. His poetry has appeared in The Dark Horse, Evansville Review, and Umbrella. He edits the online poetry journal, Lucid Rhythms.


© 2010 David W. Landrum