David Case

Gersaint's Gallery

In the right bottom corner, a whippet
bites at a flea, while, bewigged and draped,
clients and hangers-on lounge, gesture, speak—
surely of nothing urgent or depressing
(though the pallor of the ladies' robes
suggests the not-distant bloodletting
in the long war for the Spanish crown,
the French and foreign dead heaped on fields
at Oudenarde, Denain, and Malplaquet)
while a portrait of the man responsible
for the elegance and the slaughter
is taken from a crate for exhibition
by a brown young man with puffed white sleeves

and a few turn their heads half-way
to see Louis the Great, safely dead,
this terrible father, belated
but relentless in his piety,
now respected and ignored
as the Regent reads his Rabelais at mass.

(Watteau, L'Enseigne de Gersaint)

© 2008 Electronic Poetry Review