Gustave Courbet to his sister, from Sainte-Pelagie prison, 1871
My dear Juliette,
I am painting apples,
squinting in this light to see my palette.
I do not hear from the others
and worry that the magistrate has their ears.
Yes, I have been savage, in art
quick to set myself apart. But to call me infamous,
to say I sold our finest work to the English
and brought down the Column!
Now Mme G. sells my letters to the papers
while the Prussians loot the atelier.
Zelie writes that they plump up their dossier
with planted pamphlets and dismantle the exhibition
walls for barricades.
Please, thank Lydie for the boxed cheese.
The Colonel will not send the money he owes.
Without it the Director dwindles my meals
and makes me paint inside.
The youngest communard cries in the night
for times picking raspberries
for his mother's pies.
I console him with apples, golden and russet,
that we will share when you visit.
Now I must stop. Beyond the bars the sun declines.
Tomorrow I start on pomegranates.
Footnote: Gustave Courbet's Still life with apples is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.