Tag Archives Menai Straits

MIRROR, MIRROR

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‘Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?’  Pablo Picasso

 

We have moved our print of Henry Holiday’s

‘Dante and Beatrice’ – bought second hand

fifty years ago – from the window wall

of our eclectic bedroom to above

the bed, where it hangs now in its gilt, ornate,

retro-Victorian frame like an icon.

The bed faces the mantle piece, on which

is a Spanish mirror as large as the room’s

window. Its olive wood frame has flamenco

curves, its top adorned with bridal wreaths

of silk roses and rose buds and ribbons.

 

The morning after the hanging I wake

in expectation of seeing the famed

platonic lovers central in the pier glass,

though knowing they will be on the wrong side

of the Arno, which will be flowing upstream.

However, to my chagrin, this mirror

of long acquaintance is distorted

in its right hand corner like some fairground

feature. The poet and his preoccupied

muse, her forward friend, her hand maiden,

and – though possibly excluding its pigeons –

all of the manufactured magnificence

of Florence seem about to descend into a vortex.

 

Now, where the Holiday originally was,

is a print of Janet Bell’s ‘Low Tide

At Menai Bridge’ – a gift from our daughter

and her family for our fiftieth

wedding anniversary. Bell’s pastel

acrylics have replaced Holiday’s

Pre-Raphaelite oils – his love story

succeeded by her stylised landscape.

If I stand close to the mirror I can see

Janet Bell’s print far over to my left.

At the centre of her painting is Telford’s

suspension bridge – beyond is Snowdonia.

 

Bell’s picture does not show me – why should it? –

that even at low water the sea’s currents

whirl from north and south through the Menai Straits,

that separate the North Wales mainland

from the fecund isle of Anglesey,

and, at the flow, become a gyre, a maelstrom,

nor should Holiday’s tell me that this

particular Beatrice may not have been

Dante’s muse after all, any more than

this mirror with its Iberian

curvatures should declaim in song and dance

its own imperfections.

 

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