• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 08
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Jean Esme Cooke: A Self-portrait

Oh Jean, you should’ve known when that crazy, jealous guy, John, locked you up in his room so you couldn’t get away, that you would never be like the doves you loved so much to paint. His insecurity would lead to many abusive words, like angry brush strokes, and his beatings, sadly, were not on canvas. But he would ruin your paintings with his own intentional brush-overs. In one he didn’t get, your eyes come through so clearly. I see it in your irises, that searching for the unknown, the previously unperceived, and I can read it on your quiet lips, too, If your mind is attuned to beauty, you find beauty in everything. Even the unheated mansion in Blackheath never bothered you. Do you think he set the house on fire, choking your paintings with soot before flashing them in flames? After you “ungardened” the fenced-in garden to unearth the hostility your husband left there, your indomitable spirit still bloomed—Everything that happens when I open my eyes [each morning] is a surprise. It's like dying and coming alive again every day—I see that in your eyes, too.

Italicized words are Cooke’s quotations