A Child's Plate c. 1840
This is the last of you, consigned
as part of a collection to Sotheby’s
for an afternoon auction. Lifted from
the salt-glazed stoneware teapots –
a Staffordshire child’s plate,
polychrome, 5-3/4” in diameter.
Impressed on the border, a pearl-white
pattern of alternating pinwheel daisies.
In the center, a garden scene –
handpainted in orange, yellow, red and
green – an oblivious boy, intent
on his book, and a young girl pining:
The tulip and the butterfly
appear in gayer coats than I -
Let me be dress'd fine as I will,
such poesie exceeds me still.
Your first discovery, unearthed
from an outing to Portobello Road. Later,
when I got back from my conference,
you presented it to me in triumph.
I remember it, your smile –
the same smile you had that last night,
propped among your pillows and tubes,
the muted blip of the bedside monitor
pacing my own heart. You pressed
my palm with the soft of your thumb,
whispered finally to me Piaf’s:
Non, je ne regrette rien.
But this is mine: that I might have seized
more zealously our days with one another.
And now, this is all that is left of you,
the pearlware figurines, the pottery
figural clocks, the thimbles, the scent-bottle
holders, enamel necessaires. And they mean
nothing, nothing – only your smile
remembered, wistful, underglaze.