Warming her pearls

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She’s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit’s foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head…. Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does…. And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.

Carol Ann Duffy

3 thoughts on “Warming her pearls

  1. Applause here from the front row ! A new tradition, maybe? It’s a really cool poem, Clare … and somehow I know or met Carol Ann Duffy (or merely recognize the name). I come from a family of poets, in which I once came downstairs to find E.L. Doctorow giving my Aunt Olivia a foot massage as Adrienne Rich (I think?) recited by the fireplace. It was a strangely crazy and wonderful place to grow up.

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