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This poem is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

Isabella Notes Bill Manhire
 
Isabel sits in her study
with a book on her knee.
What a good student: she's looking
herself up in the Q.E.D.

Something's on her mind. Quick!
call a lexicographer! Her face
goes gray, then yellow.

She calls for help
Socorro!
and the book falls to the floor

oh, and we look up yellow
only to find the dirty sheets of paper,
the layers of calico

left by the tired Spanish princess.


*

The lexicographer came to my studio.

I was still working at my portrait of the Spanish princess, the one you will know, which is now so famous. I remember the particular afternoon well. It was gray outside and I was pleased with the cheeky little nose, the way I had caused the light to slip across it, making the lady somehow less severe. Ah yes, he said. Though just a little, he said, I'm not even sure if I should say this … just a little … but then I suppose it would be patronising not to say it … just a little more Isabella here!
 
*

Isabel, three syllables,
...


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