Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier and Wife Posing with Scientific Instruments Just Before He Is Beheaded

Jacques -Louis David, Portrait of Monsieur Lavosier and His Wife (1788)

by Bridget Lowe

Good riddance, waved the small
handkerchiefs of the Republic, as the rational
became muddled, a mix of colors

pouring from my husband’s severed head.
Wigged and alive, the two of us
were more like twins, his slender leg

that of a schoolgirl’s, blond
curls rolling down my back. My blue sash.
In our portrait such illumination,

all around us light striking glass
and copper as I lean upon
my husband’s shoulder, his elbow propped

on the red velvet tablecloth, a beaker
upturned at his foot.
How to know what to look for?

The dream is here, I thought, in this
pillared room, a pheasant quill
in his right hand, about to make something real.

The body is like fire, he wrote, it consumes
and gives off heat. It seemed
so romantic, like a love letter, like the tomb

disappearing under a current, briefly.
Like the word he invented—oxygen
for the steam that escaped my mouth.

 

To read more poems by Bridget Lowe, subscribe to the print edition of Parnassus, Volume 33.

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