The first poem of the month I wrote remembering the experience of painting the portrait of a beautiful girl, the niece of the cook we employed when I lived as an expat in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I still have the picture, but I wish I had given it to the sitter.
Portrait of Barua’s Niece
The slow fan span, the ants ran by
all afternoon along verandah rails.
Barua’s niece in all her gold
sat, gazed out imperfectly
from my canvas. Thirty years ago
she was seventeen years old.
Today I meet Barua’s niece again
in my attic. She gazes out at me
through dust and clutter.
She’s a grandmother, I dare say.
She claimed the picture but I kept it,
a miser grasping to contain her youth.
Her perfect image survives imperfectly
on the unfinished canvas.
© Janice Windle