A Scene From Madame Salvador’s Wake

He was, in truth, more than slightly ill at ease;

Not that he hadn’t attended more than his share

Of these events—eaten the sandwiches, stood appropriately grim-faced

In corners of drawing rooms, or smiled and chuckled politely

If, in fact, the individual in question would have wanted it that way,

But, as old friend and attending physician,

He was playing a different and somewhat awkward role,

Even though Judge Salvador had greeted him warmly,

Embracing him as he said You did all that I could have asked.

There are, after all, limits to what science can accomplish.

Walking with the judge into the main entryway

As he prepared to leave, he was confronted

With a portrait of the late Madame Salvador,

which had been painted by their mutual friend,

The noted artist Mediaverdad (the painter conspicuously absent,

Preferring, as a rule, whoring and gambling

To such somber affairs—he had once stated,

Wreathed in clouds generated by his ever-present Romeo Y Julieta,

That he had not committed to attendance

At his own services) as a wedding present long ago.

The work was not simply a faithful representation,

Though Mediaverdad was justly renowned for his expert eye

And command of color and shading—there was,

In the subject’s eyes, the curl of the lips,

The attitude of the elbows and bustline,

An insouciance, a coquettishness

That the physician found unsettling to the point of disturbing

(He had never truly studied the work before,

As he had invariably been greeted in the vestibule

By its subject while she walked among the living.)

The judge, having noticed the doctor’s attention

To the portrait, laughed softly, saying Our Mediaverdad

Is something else, isn’t he? You know, I have found

This portrait to be a great comfort—I admit I find myself

Speaking to it quite frequently (how alive it looks, friend!)

As if she was still here.


The portrait was often in the doctor’s thoughts

For days after the wake, unable to shake the image

Of something unaffected (indeed, wholly unconcerned)

By the cessation of a heartbeat, the absence of breathing.

On those future occasions when doctor visited Judge Salvador

At his home (for the doctor was loyal and considerate to a fault)

He invariably entered the house through the back entrance.

Not to avoid the gaze of the portrait;

It was the height of summer, and the physician reasoned to himself

That it would be almost criminal to deprive himself of the spectacle

Of the garden at the rear of the property,

As the judge invariably planted flora and fauna

Of an unmatched variety and beauty.


5 thoughts on “A Scene From Madame Salvador’s Wake

  1. Loved the content, but must admit to not sharing your vision of this benefiting from a poetic line breaking format. It reads somewhere between Borges, Foster Wallace and Dahl. I didn’t get the end though, the last lines about the flora and fauna threw me sideways, kinda like when your head bangs into the train car window at a turn and you jump out of your train of thought.

    As always though, your writing is crisp and sharp, no fuzz or unnecessary extras.

  2. even if you write this in such a “light-hearted” way it reads still haunting and the guilt (even if he knows he isn’t guilty) can be felt in those lines..but also wonder about the flora and fauna line..

  3. A whole story behind this one, yet one pursued without straying into unnecessary additions or overly flowery verse…quite lovely. I enjoyed the flow, but while not to cling to my predecessors, I must confess to a bit of a stumble in the end on my part. Read it over a couple times. Left me curious, more than anything…

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