Lucian Freud, The Brigadier (Detail), 2003-2004
Oil on Canvas, 88" x 54-1/2"
As Exhibited at Correr Museum, 51st Venice Biennale, 2005
Image: © Andrea Merola/EPA
The Interview ~ A Sestina
He refused to call his interviewer by her name,
so she, taking his hint, dubbed him "The Brigadier".
Getting down to business, out of the spotlight's glare, she posed
her first question of this former husband
of Camilla Parker-Bowles, wondering (not aloud), "What gives
with the red cuffs, the bars of shimmery medals, the gold braids?"
Casting an exhausted glance to time past, he braids
the young upstart a story. He goes back to when his name
means more than cuckold, to a place his service gives
promise of honor praised. Now droopy-eyed, The Brigadier
purses his lip. "Once, before I became her husband,
I had a dream." She sees then how he might have posed
in more relaxing moments; how he, too, might have posed
the question of his worn-out officers, talked of how war braids
all men's stories into one, of what has to be done to husband
the sadness for a later breaking down. "Whom would you name
our greatest living hero?" she wants to know. Wearied, The Brigadier
unbuttons his jacket, the stark white of his tight shirt what gives
his face that damaged pasty look. "Ugh, that paunch. It gives
no sign of pride," she thinks. "I am old," he adds, but posed
to carry on, he waits to tuck into her next question. The Brigadier
admits to a glamorous, privileged life and just as quickly up-braids
himself. "Don't ask me to give you the name
I no longer speak!" It's obvious that business of being husband
to Camilla wipes him out. "What was it like, being a husband
to the one who stepped out with a prince?" Aggrieved, he gives
no hint beyond a forearm raised at imagining that name
re-joined to his. "I mean, it's all so 19th Century." Posed
against a dark backcloth, he tries to begin again, and braids
then splays his fingers. "With luck," she smiles, "The Brigadier
will give me a little something, just scathing enough." The Brigadier
has gone through this before. On to her, this once-husband
of no name pushes back in his chair. Stopped fingering his braids,
their gold gleaming against his stiff fleshy neck, he gives
no ground, not an inch, and sits silent until she recovers, has posed
her last question for the day. He never speaks her name.
A melancholy husband, he understood when she posed
to plead divorce. He gives not a whit for the ribbons, thick braids
like chains. She's reduced him to her pet name for him: The
© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas
Lucian Freud's figurative oil painting is of Andrew Parker-Bowles, OBE, formerly husband of Camilla Parker-Bowles, now Dutchess of Cornwall and wife of HRH Prince Charles, and a friend of Freud's
Freud, grandson of Sigmund Freud, died Wednesday, age 88.
The Paintings of Lucian Freud (SlideShow)
Lucien Freud's The Brigadier (Illustrated in Unfinished State) at Acquavella Galleries
* * * * *
This poem is offered in response to L.L. Barket's invitation "Let's Talk in Pictures" posted today at TweetSpeakPoetry and for Claire Burge's PhotoPlay challenge at The High Calling. In keeping with All Art Friday, I took a bit of license and used an image of an artwork as my prompt, imagining how "The Brigadier" might have responded to his out-of-sight interviewer.
Anyone may participate in the challenge. Just be sure to post your offering by Wednesday, July 27, and then add your link in the comments section of L.L.'s post.