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Beata Duncan 1921 - 2015 

 

previously published in The New Statesman,

in collection, Apple Harvest,  2000

Hearing Eye, ISBN 1-870841-72-7 

The Lovely Butcheress

 

Dear Cath, I am sitting by the fire

with my coat on,

drinking tea out of your mug;

just back from the Arts Centre and

'The Spirit of Berlin in the Twenties'.

You said Richard Ziegler

would be worth a visit.

 

He painted a lot of women

with high cheekbones and big velvet eyes;

housewives with low hats and fur collars

(like that photo of gran

teaching mum to ride a bike),

prostitutes in scanty clothes.

 

The one that really got to me

is called 'Die Schoene Metzgerin' —

The lovely butcheress:

a pantry with the carcass of a boar

and a stout young woman,

naked except for stockings and shoes,

belly touching the pig's.

 

Her features are very fine:

straight nose, full lips, long lashes.

She is raising the penis from dead entrails

and touching it with the tip of a knife,

a look of utter contentment on her face —

or 'satisfaction' would be the better word.

 

The colours are mostly warm:

pink for the two bodies,

rich brown stockings and cottage loaf hair;

dabs of red for her mouth

and the pig's clotted blood.

 

But her heels are black and square

on checkered floor tiles,

the grey hooks through his trotters

tone in with her gleaming knife.

 

What is he saying in that painting?

I went back again and again—

what, for God's sake,

does that say about me?

 

The gallery was almost empty,

only an old man looking at the women,

and I didn't meet anyone

on my way home.

 

I bought a catalogue for you —

please come back soon!

 

Beata Duncan

 

Note:  'The Spirit of Berlin in the Twenties' was an exhibition of Richard Ziegler's work at the Camden Arts Centre.  The painting 'Die Schoene Metzgerin' is at the V&A.

 

 

Beata Duncan photo

contact Stephen Duncan

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