Naomi Foyle

English Eccentrics In Love

Not just his tiger rugs and scorpions,
all of Stanley Spencer’s paintings make me think of you:
their rich palette like the quarried colours
of your kisses; their untamed quaintness
like the way you sometimes brush your hair.

And the artist, I am sure, would approve of your desire
to start a new religion, just to worship women.
When the virgin Stanley married, he painted the Resurrection
in his village churchyard: souls arising from the soil
in tribute to the earthly succour of his wife.

After divorcing Hilda, though, he fell
hard for a dyke, painted Patricia naked
beside a leg of mutton, his own ineffectual
appendages — glasses, genitals, head — dangling
blue and strangled over her supine disdain.

I’m sure you would have warned him, man to man,
but when he offered his model all his money and his house
Patricia and her lover had a little chat,
agreed that she would walk the aisle with him ―
Stanley slept once more with Hilda on the wedding night.

Patricia scarpered six months later
(back to Dorothy’s warm bed),
unperturbed by carnal knowledge of our Stan.
Spencer, undaunted by the weakness of the flesh,
wrote love letters to his Hilda for years beyond her death.

Who’d choose to be a painter or a muse? God knows
I smiled when you announced your chosen deity. But
though gold rings have never come between us at the altar
we anoint; though women also are to me the staff of life;
still I suffer like a wife the fluctuations of your faith.

Leaves tremble, water shimmers when we touch,
swans sail down our river in the night.
But the red brick walls of factories and chimney stacks
bulge between us in the moonlight
when you rise to go back home before the dawn.

Perhaps I do deserve someone unswerving, who’ll build me up
with patient brushstrokes in his heart. But if you did
would I adopt Patricia’s joyless gaze:
irritated icon, shark in lace garters,
martyr to the marriage bed, a girls’ girl to the end?

Naomi Foyle © 2008