The Lady In My Mailbox

The other day, when I reached for my letters, I felt a folded newspaper amongst them.  I slowly pulled it away from its sealed brethren, and out of the little brass house marked with my last name.

It revealed itself minutely, a quiet dusk of black, white and gray.  There were stars and crosses on its cover – confusing and tantalizing.  There were lines that might have formed languages; or possibly they explained the twelve astrological legends.  There were curved expanses of white and pink – a mathematical drama of color and pattern.  What did it all mean?

Finally, a pair of heavy-lidded eyes, yawning under their awning, ended my speculating.  They were a deep, unreachable blue – hypnotic lamps – and stared from a chemical field of white lead and arsenic. 

Her shining, choking bodice swept low and a sapphire brooch hung over it like a dark sun.

My lady's hair was frizzed and powdered, and jeweled galaxies wound through the cloudy curls.  Her ears, pierced by barbarous means, were hung with twin pearls – reflected moons, chaste and desirable.  Her head – separate from an uncomfortable, misunderstood body – reclined on a starched platter of wire and lace.

No one knows for sure who painted this portrait, nor the identity of this pale lady.  From the cover of my newspapaer she watched me, trapped in a madness of 17th century ornamentation.  I studied the silver and black calligraphy that traveled from shoulder to hem; from a breastplate of iron and bone to a skirt shaped by a hidden, wooden cage.

I assumed she was proud:  of her stifled and inanimate beauty, of her artificality, of the wealth that gave her the leisure to be as useful as a doll.  I thought she might be sad, and for the same reasons.  I was thinking of all those things, until I saw the small coral blossom, insinuating itself into a smile that dimpled the corners of her mouth.  It was like a whispered secret, a sly revelation – telling me that I needn't have worried.

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12 responses to “The Lady In My Mailbox

  1. Oh, this is gooood. Your prose is beautiful, I'll bet you did this within a short period of time, didn't you. This seems like the kind of thing that, well, you know how when an artist who has written an extremely popular song or written a fantastic piece of literature says, "It just came to me and I wrote it in about an hour"? Was it like that, or did you moon over this for days and days? In other words, is this lady your muse?

  2. Human turned sculpture–

  3. I did write it quickly – for me, that is (I'm a very slow writer!). This was my monthly paper from the LA County Museum of Art. As my eyes traveled up the cover, all I saw were patterns, until I arrived at her eyes, and I was stopped cold. The impressions here are exactly true. It seemed worthy of a 'quick' essay!

  4. She reminds me of Queen Elizabeth I. Its amazing how you can write such beautiful prose around a picture so stifled and sad.

  5. Imagine, going to an art museum with the wonderful Aubrey. It would be like cooking a dinner with Julia Childs, or going for a hike with Sacagawea, or going trick or treating with Willie Wonka.

  6. a mesmerizing image, rich with stories untold, though you have begun with one, and one deserving of this secretive and secreted lady …

  7. Purple – Very good eye! Experts believe that Robert Peake the Elder painted this portrait. He was a very popular portraitist, and painted many royal ladies, including Elizabeth I herself.
    pyrit – I am a terrible art snob; and I can be pretty vocal about my opinions too. I think it would be rather a trial to go with me!

  8. Isn't "terrible art snob" an oxymoron? Last weekend I visited the National Gallery of Art, in Wash., DC. Mighty powerful artsenal there.

  9. I really think you should compile some of these pieces into a manuscript. They are worthy gems that should see proper publication. Maybe you could hire someone to go through your posts and select the best ones, but I think you would probably do the best job of selecting. Maybe you could start sharing your posts with publishers–just send them on and see what happens. You have a book deal waiting to happen!

  10. I thought of Queen Elizabeth I too.

  11. This is a very interesting piece. I wonder what Elizabeth I would have said if she had read this prose.

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