Alice Fairfax in Wonderland
After Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Crystal City
In the china cabinet, heirlooms
inherited by my master’s mother and by her
mother before her. Following the dictates of duty,
I supervise the monthly polishing of silver.
Last week the master discovered a stray finger
print on the silver-plated serving tray.
I think the new girl is to blame.
Bits of filigreed finery infiltrate my dreams.
A butter knife rings the doorbell. A candy dish
sprouts eyes. A pair of skulls converse
on the cake pedestal. Sometimes
I wake at midnight, then rise and count
each piece of cool stemware that leans
toward my touch like a wistful tulip.
I always ascertain the tea service faces west.
Early evenings I verify the serving spoon doesn’t grow
claws as I reach for it, suppertime so unpredictable here.
“Alice Fairfax in Wonderland” is inspired by Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s 2009 mixed media installation, Crystal City--which is part of Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, an exhibition drawn from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of Latino art. In Crystal City, items like silverware and stemware are arranged in a grid pattern on a low pedestal. The installation is titled after a small town that was the birthplace of the Chicano civil rights movement in Texas.
Alice Fairfax is the housekeeper of Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre.
Visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum here to view Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Crystal City.
About the Author:
Rita Maria Martinez lives in Miami, Florida. Her poetry appears in various literary magazines like Ploughshares, Notre Dame Review, and MiPOesias. Her first full-length poetry collection--The Jane and Bertha in Me— is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in 2016. The poems revamp Charlotte Brontë's Gothic heroine with tattoos, fishnets, and modern feminism. They also explore the stigma of mental and physical illness. Visit Martinez’s website here.