The Ghost of Anna Bilinska 1886

Emmeline Deane (artist), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 1884
Please look at the art and then listen to the poem.
“The Ghost of Anna Bilinska 1886” is an ekphrasis poem. Ekphrasis is a type of poetry that responds to a work of art. 

The Ghost of Anna Bilinska 1886

Shadows shroud her dark eyes and
highlights enliven her hair.
Yet, those pale lips are departed 
like the pale father’s heart.

Cheeks flowering with consumption
repose her in the night--
as her veil--
her long black veil...
resting on white light.

Gathered soft-bow, feathered muff, 
pressed taffeta
to razor perfection.
A precision that denies
that madness resides 
in deep mourning. 

Anna hides the colors lurking within black
her skeleton flashes just beneath the skin.
Her resting hands,
sensitive and strong,
a painter within.

And when she rises and leaves the room, her headdress sweeps behind
like a black horse’s mane. 
Her long black veil wakes her passing-- 
the gauze stretches, and billows, and coils,
ribboning through the streets of Paris
into a thin tail 
a year hence, 
becomes a tiny black string, 
fading into eternity. 

Note: Anna Bilinska’s portrait was painted by her friend Emmeline Deane in 1886 shortly after Anna had lost her father. Anna was also an artist, a landscape painter who worked throughout France. Though gifted Anna experienced a series of personal losses –losing her father first then her beloved fiancé. She died young at the age of 35, and her works are not widely known.  

By A-Woven-Basket

7 replies on “The Ghost of Anna Bilinska 1886”

I do believe you’ve captured this image and spun it out in the billowing, weaving gauze of Anna’s veil. A vivid reading of a portrait!


This is interesting — I just finished assigning my Victorian Gothic students an exam question with Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” as context, and then this picture and poem about a solitary woman dressed in black who lost her father. Synchronicity!


This is really lovely painting and during your reading I found my eyes jumping from her veil to her hands to her face. I love both the art and history tidbits from this posting and learned about a new form of poetry! Thank you!


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