The Countryside Becomes Her

the countryside becomes her

Yellow is often called the color

of prostitutes, from Athenian women

who draped their figures in slinky gauze

to courtesans of Vienna who sail

the streets in soft silk.

 

Yet, the country lifts this hue

to hedgerow birds who strike the leaves

with wings flickering (like matchstick flames)

that catch someone’s eye and light

the landscape with awe.

 

Meanwhile, the carriage house

offers its handsome view of this shade

as large wheels express travel

through its open door, an escape  into the hills

where a colonnade  of beech trees guard

the field  and grazing livestock.

 

But I prefer the way

sun and water shape a lake, a mirror

( framed by gold )

that doesn’t judge the woman  it perceives,

only reflects her features and mood. Here

 

I  can call myself  the playwright’s muse,

the light-boned sylph

who spoke and surrendered her breath

to his pen, his creation of  The Sea gull. Though wife

in the eyes of church and law,  I always see

 

Anton viewing me

as mistress on the croquet lawn or at the card table —

on stage where I m his literature

brought to life — but never again

as the street girl  he found

in a theater  living on rye

biscuits  and a glass

of vodka  haloed with dust.

 

 

 

 

Interact

 

 

 

 

7 comments

  1. When I think of yellow in nature, I think of sunflowers, snapdragons, daisies, daffodils, and the lovely little goldfinches who could empty a thistle feeder in less than half a day.

    I am not familiar with the work mentioned, but I assume the person narrating the poem is connected either with that work or with the author. However, I don’t find it necessary to know that in order to enjoy the poem as written.

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  2. I read that the marriage to Olga was a long distance relationship. Your poem has inspired me to want to reread the play or at least watch Annette Bening’s portrayal of Irina. Which is what came to mind as Iread this piece. Thanks – craig

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  3. Wendy,

    So beautifully thought and crafted. My favorite lines:

    “But I prefer the way

    sun and water shape a lake, a mirror

    ( framed by gold )

    that doesn’t judge the woman it perceives,

    only reflects her features and mood.”

    There is something about those lines that make me think of the sea gull
    (when it flew free). They make the killing and stuffing of the bird even sadder
    and more hopeless.

    The closing lines (whether gull or girl) remind me that man killed the bird because
    he had nothing better to do, and then stuffed it to keep it forever, though it could
    never be the same.

    The painting you chose is perfect for your poem. It speaks to me of beauty
    and vulnerability. Now I want to see the play on stage, and have it close
    with the reading of your poem.

    So fine!!.

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  4. Hi Jan

    What a lovely thing to say! Thank you so much for reading and commenting on work, I deeply appreciate it!

    Hi Michael

    The poem is loosely based on the wife of 19th century Russian Playwright, Anton Chekov. He was known for vaiour plays, but some of his most memorable in my opinion were: “The Sea Gull, “The Cherry Orchard,” and “Three Sisters. Thanks so much for your input and perspective. I really appreciate it.

    Hi Craig,

    You’re right, much of the relationship between Olga and Anton was long distance with love conveyed through letters. I took artistic liberty with this poem and invented a few details like the closing lines. In reality, I believe Olga never suffered the poverty of wandering the streets looking for work as an actress or even really inspired the character of Nina in the sea gull, not really sure about that but both details were needed to underscore the tone, theme and mood of this poem. I have never seen that adaptation of The Sea Gull with Annette Bening as Nina. Now I want to go and find that version. Thanks so much for reading this poem and sharing your thoughts, especially mentioning that particular rendition of the play.

    Hi Sarah

    What a wonderful and keen interpretation you give here! I thank you so much for sharing your introspective thoughts and endorsement of this poem!! I think you are so right about the symbolism of the sea gull in his play. The countryside allows us to reconnect with nature and discover more about our own. It also provides a feeling of freedom and refuge from societal constraints and prejudices. I kind of tinkered in this poem with Chekov’s famous quote, “medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress”. I wanted to show how Olga ,in the countryside” preferred to be seen as mistress ; thus, elevating the concept to that of a woman of passion, mystery, a confidante who enraptured her lover, the playwright — where as a “wife” at that time was suppose to be seen as someone more
    staid, in accordance with society’s mores, duties and responsibilities. Often a wife was someone a man married because she offered wealth and could refine his position in the upper or professional classes. Again thank you so much for sharing your insight. I deeply appreciate i1!

    My best to everyone,

    Wendy

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  5. I, too, especially like these lines:

    “But I prefer the way
    sun and water shape a lake, a mirror
    ( framed by gold )
    that doesn’t judge the woman it perceives,
    only reflects her features and mood.”

    I love the lake that doesn’t judge because
    during that time women
    were very much judged, in every way,
    including what value they would bring to a marriage.

    Wonderful imagery.
    Enjoyed much, Dear Wendy.

    take care,
    Kerri

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  6. Hi Kerri

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this poem! :Love your take on those lines and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Hope all is well with you and yours!!

    Take care my friend,
    Wendy

    Like

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