Girl with a Blue Ribbon
by Sandra Anfang

Wrapped in green foliage
steeped in spring’s deep arbor
red hair splayed about her shoulders
the ice blue satin ribbon more a garnish than a collar.
I sink into a bed of dove gray tulle, arm on a velvet hassock
in the ruby port dress with white lace collar and cuffs.
I feel the constricting sash
as mother ties the bow at the small of my back
like a starched Christmas package.
I’d trade places with her in a heartbeat
for though we both sit for formal portraits
there’s a wildness in her streaming locks
a hint of mischief in her blushing lips.
No doubt we’re both dreaming of tadpoles and cattails,
riding the barefoot wood of our imagination.
A palpable sadness fills my budding dimples
trying hard to bloom. The ponytail, corkscrewed
by strips of ragged sheets, is pulled too tight.
Oh, to wear her wild crinkled blondness
the blue bow almost an afterthought
though our eyes share a certain ennui,
a prayer of escape and transport!
See that frisson of perspiration on my worried brow?
The gold charm bracelet, shackles my wrist
matching the heart-shaped locket
that advertises our family’s class.
Look closely; see how the photographer
has painted my mouth in an upturned bow
flushed the wan cheek to make me glow
where my blood ran cold.

PAINTING: “Girl with a Blue Ribbon” by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1880).

PHOTOGRAPH: Portrait of the author, circa 1959 (retouched photograph).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: At my son’s suggestion, I recently hung an old childhood studio portrait of me outside my bedroom door. It has always made me sad to look at, but the longer I do, the more I come to embrace my childhood self. To me, the pose bears a strong resemblance to Renoir’s “Girl with a Blue Ribbon,” painted in 1880.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sandra Anfang is a prize-winning Northern California teacher, poet, and visual artist. She is the author of four self-published poetry collections and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Poetalk, San Francisco Peace and HopeWest Trestle Review, two Healdsburg Literary Guild anthologies, The Tower Journal, Corvus Review, River Poets Journal, Clementine Poetry Journal and Spillway.She has a chapbook forthcoming in 2016 from Finishing Line Press. Sandra is a new California Poet/Teacher in the schools and is the founder and host of the monthly poetry series, Rivertown Poets, in Petaluma. To write, for her, is to breathe.