Face It, Her Suffering Makes a Good Story

Beata Beatrix c.1864-70 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882

Sonnenizio with a line from Christina Rossetti

Beata Beatrix c.1864-70 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882
Beata Beatrix: posthumous portrait of Elizabeth Siddall by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1864-70.

One face looks out from all his canvases, Christina writes.
She’s beauty’s face, he says, the only muse he needs,
the face of his Elizabeth, her wild yet delicate solemnity.
Not often shown full-face, her long, pale profile
faces beyond the painting’s frame, her red mane flares.
She looks remote, mysterious, surely faced poverty
before her face became her entrée to the Brotherhood
and faces even in this new life illness and addiction.
Painter and poet, not merely the model, memorable face
of Dante’s visions, Lizzie will meet the face of death –
their stillborn child – then face her own (an overdose…)
He can’t face life without her, casts his manuscript
into her grave but then repents, exhumes her rotting face
which follows him, now facing sorrow, guilt, disgrace.


Inspired by Luisa’s recent sonnenizios on Donne and Hopkins, this takes a line from In An Artist’s Studio by Christina Rossetti, thought to be about her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his partner Elizabeth Siddall.


All the morning at the office till past three o’clock. At that houre home and eat a bit alone, my wife being gone out. So abroad by coach with Mr. Hill, who staid for me to speake about business, and he and I to Hales’s, where I find my wife and her woman, and Pierce and Knipp, and there sung and was mighty merry, and I joyed myself in it; but vexed at first to find my wife’s picture not so like as I expected; but it was only his having finished one part, and not another, of the face; but, before I went, I was satisfied it will be an excellent picture. Here we had ale and cakes and mighty merry, and sung my song, which she [Knipp] now sings bravely, and makes me proud of myself.
Thence left my wife to go home with Mrs. Pierce, while I home to the office, and there pretty late, and to bed, after fitting myself for to-morrow’s journey.

alone abroad
I find my unself

find my if picture
like another face

I will make my go home
fit my tomorrow journey

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 February 1666.

Suerte Suerte

Did you know
     you were pulot only,
         picked up from the stoop 
or from the fork of a tree,
     out of the dumpster in
         the alley, your face
scrunched up like a piece
     of champoy, salted plum
         candy? And did you know
your wrapper was stiff yellow
     though you didn't freeze
         overnight in the wind
or get eaten by wild dogs?
     Lucky lucky, said the nuns
         looking into the milk
carton and finding you under a pile
     of rags. Suerte suerte lang---
         If not for the trash
collector, if not for scissors-
     grinder rapping at the gate,
         if not for the maid who took
you into the kitchen where she fed you
     the pap skimmed off the top
         of a pot of boiling rice.