The room is undoubtedly scented.
The flower she holds, a pink and
white peony. There's a stand of them
at her feet. She lies on a rattan divan
and her legs taper like cut-off
stalks of the flower into nothingness.
She is a courtesan. Folded, tucked,
wrapped into crimson silk and brocade.
Powdered, rouged and plucked.
Her eyes in the picture are puffy.
The painter knows. As light as meringue,
he paints her, with a chair beside
so delicate as to accommodate only
one of her kind. She leans back,
occupied for a while by flower and
fan but succumbs to the sound
of cicadas. How quietly
the paper takes to the colour,
the paint to the brush. Down
to the left, he begins to sketch
a rooster. Stops the bird in its tracks.
She opens her eyes, props up her head
with the hand with the fan and holds out the flower
with the other. The bird cocks his head and
inspects the lady briefly. For a second,
his eye meets hers.