When Ursula Tyrwhitt was Gladstone’s Lover

by Bernie Cullen

Dear Gwen,

Today’s vase holds mustard-yellow chrysanthemums,
yesterday’s were rainbow-paper anemones.

This evening we spoke about the economy,
I hold our balance in orchid asymmetry.

His hands, after a day deep in stately missions,
turn our passion, the blue-deep of delphiniums.

He scribes such love scenes I’m losing my faculties,
his ink, tattooed on my skin from world currencies.

He goes to his day job, meets with the ministers,
I paint scent of petals; I am oblivious.

His breath, still, in the hollow of my clavicle.
Door closed, I find the trumpet of a daffodil,

I feed his adultery to the bees.

(Ursula Tyrwhitt was one of the Slade women painters, a friend of Gwen John, she specialised in flower painting.)

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