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July 6, 2012

Poetry Friday--Ekphrasis part II

Blanchisseuses et chevaux by Edgar Degas courtesy
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne.

Last week I wrote about Eavan Boland's "Degas's Laundresses," click here if you missed it. In searching the internet, I found several Degas works that used laundrywomen as a subject. I also found many works depicting horses. The picture above combines the two favored subjects.

I've written my own ekphrastic poem to go with it:
Obsessive Compulsive: On Degas' Blanchisseuses et chevaux

Laundress was the perfect
job for her--the woman
who was always scrubbing
away at personal stigmas.

At work, imagined stains
were replaced by the tangible
make-up smears, wine drips,
menstrual blood, and sweat

rings of others' lives.
In cleansing them she
cleansed herself. But,
the horse? Why did she

stop that day on her way
to deliver the load of milk
white sheets perfectly
bleached and crisply folded?

Perhaps she merely stopped
to caress the beautiful creature
without the compulsion to strip
it of its sins and render it pure.

Perhaps...but not likely.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Tabatha is hosting this week's Round-Up at The Opposite of Indifference.


  1. So glad you followed up on last week's post, Diane (which I mentioned in mine today, by the way).

    I wasn't familiar with this Degas and find it really intriguing - and your wonderings about it, too. Maybe the horse had a grass stain on its flank and she couldn't help herself?

  2. Horses AND laundresses...what are the chances?!?

  3. Thank you, Ladies. It is a great picture, isn't it? And we're so lucky to be able to find these works online. I think maybe Degas was having a little fun with the laundresses!