The Cup of Tea

A year and a half later, you passed on.

Knowing, but not knowing when,
I painted feverishly, dear sister, you:
Leaving background to canvas,
Brushstrokes capturing quickly your hair,

Your face, your eyes, the way you held your
Cup of tea, the saucer poised just so,
Spoon tilted precariously on the edge,
Like our lives.

Bright’s disease. The doctor’s cordial
Nomenclature belied your daily agony:
Wretched heaving, fire in your brow,
Inflammation raging in your spine,

Odiferous blood of smoke, urinary casts,
Edema distending your face and arms and hands.
No, not like this. I don’t want to
Remember you like this.

I want to remember you at the loom, hands
Weaving a luminous flowering on rich tapestry;
On a bench, crocheting a purple scarf with
Fringes of light, in the gardens at Marly;

Driving that carriage, reins in determined hand,
Edgar’s niece Odile beside you, holding tight;
On an ochre settee, reclined in thought, as you turn
The pages of your morning paper.

And here, on the striped sofa, breathing in a mix
Of flowers and tea, swathed in persimmon and lace,
Your gloves soft against the porcelain;
I composing myself with brush in hand,

Knowing, but not knowing when,
Fixing this memory in canvas and light, so I
Remember you this way, until this broken heart
Deigns to close my eyes too.


  1. "The Cup of Tea" by Mary Cassatt -

  2. Anonymous3:00:00 PM

    I adore how you captured the probable-why in moments that paint us in longing and remembrance. So lovely!

  3. Lovely, absolutely lovely.

  4. "Bright’s disease. The doctor’s cordial
    Nomenclature belied your daily agony:"

    That's the most poignant line of all (really clutches at one's entrails) - along with what immediately follows.

    Your treatments of painting in poetry are second to none!

  5. Lovely! The elegant portrayal of the lost sister, the way she held her cup, the crocheting and smells of flower tea, reminds me of my grandmother and all the lovely things she did that gave me fond memories of her -Hannah x

  6. I would like to consider this poem for POEM OF THE WEEK on the eNothing Blog, Samuel. Please let me know if you'd like this submitted tomorrow. Nice work.

  7. Thanks so much for the kind words

    Short link -

  8. This is so poignantly beautiful! I agree with Obsidian Eagle's comment in that the line about the doctor's "cordial nomenclature" was really hard hitting given what followed. Excellent job.

  9. Oh this is magnificent - to provide the artist's monologue and create an entire story behind a painting, is one thing but to write with such a finger on the pulse of pain and loss, is another. Wonderful work, Samuel.

  10. You have taken such sadness and created beauty. That is a real talent.

  11. A beautiful creation. Composing about composing about composing --- impressive!

  12. oh! this is VERY beautiful, luminous, even.

  13. the sadness and beauty in this piece is heartbreaking. I most admire the quiet strength that rages in your stanzas. My favorite line was

    Spoon tilted precariously on the edge,
    Like our lives.

    See, what that takes the tea cup image above and twists the emotions, the hard facts into a thing of brilliance. Well done and viva la

  14. This is a wonder of a poem. It lives, it breathes, it weeps.
    And I love your powers of description:
    "Weaving a luminous flowering on rich tapestry;
    On a bench, crocheting a purple scarf with
    Fringes of light"

  15. I agree with all above. Beautiful poetry.

  16. Taking the harrowing and ugly and refusing to settle for that dish, but making a cup of tea and a garden and a life to remember instead--not a shirking of reality at all, but a truer sight.

  17. This is a harrowing, sublime, wonderful narrative -- the poem like the painter trying to "fix" the dying sister in a portrait that endures in memory as what was most full of life. I lost my younger brother a few years ago (heart attack) and inherited his photo archives. He took thousands of pix of flowers, it was his gift. "Beauty heals" was his motto -- not that it could save him, but that the images of beauty life on forever after death. Fine, fine work. - Brendan


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