Sarah, Lady Innes


You were older than I was when we first met,

twenty seven, a lady, a merchant’s daughter

married into the British aristocracy.

I was sixteen, a high school kid from New Jersey,

brought to Henry Clay Frick’s grand mansion on 5th Avenue

by my English teacher Mrs. Bradley (nee Polanski),

who not only wanted us to see European high culture up close,

but who carefully explained that Henry Clay Frick

was a millionaire who once boasted

that he could hire half the American working class

to kill the other half.

( Frick was too generous.

Americans will kill their fellow peasants for free,

not because they hope someday to be rich,

but because they believe deep in their hearts

that the rich deserve their deference

simply for being rich.)

I stared at your portrait not because you were pretty

but because you were real, someone I could have known,

someone who would live forever,

someone who would never grow old.

Now I am well into middle age

and you are still twenty seven.

You still have the confident smile

of a rich bourgeoisie,

who flirted your way into a title,

a Jane Austen heroine yet to be a character

in a novel, but forever young, and yes beautiful,

immortalized by Thomas Gainsborough,

a master of light, color and shadow.

And I am old and ugly

and bitter

slouching towards the grave.

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