MAY 2009


The Saltonstall Family by David des GrangesDavid des Granges
The Saltonstall Family  circa 1636-7
Oil on canvas

Katrina Porteous presents her poem, 'The Second Lady Saltonstall', based on David des Granges's The Saltonstall Family. This work is currently on display at the Tate Britain.
Visit the Tate Collection online.

       The Second Lady Saltonstall

Think of it as a stage, our bed; its drama
Begetting, delivering; its canopy the cover
Light as breath over my husband and I, two actors

In the theatre of our marriage. Or
Think of it as a heart, its soft, red chambers
Filling with ice; or as a womb, the future

Translucent in its rich embrace. Is a thing ever
Quite as it seems? Although he says he adores me
Down to the wart on my right cheek – look – his eyes are elsewhere.

Always where you do not expect one, a door
Opens; the curtains part; and there,
Luminous, larger than life, they lie waiting, the dear

Moon-lit departed ones – pure. Which is either
Comfort or – depending on where
You stand in the drama – curse. Well here

We are, in the midst of it, this Masque. And you, viewer –
Lift back the drape with your finger-tip – what fear
Or faint lost hope of yours, do you lay bare?

KATRINA PORTEOUS is a poet and historian, based on the Northumberland coast. She has been Writer-in-Residence in the Shetland Islands and at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, and has written many long poems for BBC Radio. Her publications include The Lost Music, The Wund an’ the Wetter, The Bonny Fisher Lad, Dunstanburgh, Longshore Drift and The Blue Lonnen.

Katrina appeared at the Sutton Hoo Poetry Festival in May 2009 at the famous Anglo-Saxon burial site in Suffolk, as part of the Poetry Society’s Stanza events in their centenary year. For further information about other Stanza events happening across the country, please visit