Issue Thirty-Seven - Winter 2021

Deathbed Drawing of Keats by Joseph Severn

By Anne Pitkin

The large shadow sets off the pallor of his face,
his death the dark companion on his pillow.
Can he have been this beautiful?
Curls clinging to his forehead, the sensuous mouth, straight nose
under his high brow, lashes against his cheek?

I won’t forget her perfection in these moments, skin sculpted tight
over her bones, hair damp around her face. I’m gazing at her
as she dozes, almost transparent. Opens her eyes,
Are you ok my mama, she asks. I lie, I’m ok my daughter.
Minutes ago, she was keening for the children she must leave.

When she was a child, walking to school,
she used to turn around, wanting to come back. I’d wave her on.
How can I have done that! You wouldn’t know,
from Severn’s portrait of a young man at peace,
about his travail, torn like a limb from all he loved,
stolen from those who loved him.

Copyright Pitkin 2021