The happy man
Pierre Joseph Redoute painted roses;
also succulents, lilies, rare tropical
imports, but most famously, roses.
He was from a family of journeymen
painters, never famous, portraits
to order, flattering of course,
church and abbey decorations.
But Redoute painted flowers. He
looked like a peasant, squarish
in body, strong with huge misshapen
hands, not what aristocrats or critics
expect. But Redoute painted flowers.
He ambled through courts, Marie
Antoinette’s play village at Versailles,
Revolution, Terror, Napoleon. Josephine’s
triumph and her divorce, Charles X,
Louis Philippe, court painter to each
in turn unfailingly friendly, painting flowers.
His younger brother loved beetles
and reptiles instead of court ladies
to paint, but Redoute painted flowers.
Money came to him like rain to a garden.
He drank it in blindly, gave it to others,
spent it like the water it seemed.
Always more tomorrow. He grew old,
unfashionable. Money lenders sucked
him dry but he never drooped. Flowers
were always calling. At the end poor
but busy, brush in hand he died smiling
as he painted a perfect white lily.
Published in Poesis, Vol. # 9, 2007,
forthcoming in The Hunger Moon: Selected Poems, 1980 - 2010.