Autumn Sky Poetry . . . Number 23 . . .

Irène: A Portrait

     by Catherine Chandler
     art: Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Mademoiselle Irène Cahen D’Anvers.” 1880. Oil on canvas. E.G. Buhrle Collection, Zurich, Switzerland.

She looks complaisant, with her dainty hands

demurely on her lap. Red hair cascades

below her waist. Her countenance demands

one disregard the backdrop’s somber shades

to focus on the eyes, the vacant gaze,

the incandescent skin, the perfect nose,

the brow she has a tendency to raise,

perhaps in mild impatience with the pose.

And then, there is the mouth—the winsome curve,

a smile almost incongruously sly.

But now let’s take a closer look. Observe:

Irène will bear two offspring who will die,

one in the downing of his fighter plane,

one in the holocaust at Auschwitz.

Not yet sophisticated, cool, urbane,

in blissful ignorance the young girl sits.

Renoir declared that art must aim to trace

the pleasant, pretty side of life; and with

a stroke of genius, turned a commonplace

into an icon in the realm of myth.


Catherine Chandler is the author of Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011), two chapbooks, and is co-editor of Passages: A Collection of Poems by the Greenwood Poets. She is the winner of the 2010 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award and the recipient of the 2011 Kean Spencer Scholarship (West Chester University). Her poems and translations have been published in numerous print and online journals and anthologies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. She lives in Saint-Lazare, Quebec.

“Irène: A Portrait” first appeared in FutureCycle Poetry.


© 2011 Catherine Chandler