Penny Dowie’s ‘CAITLIN’

(Author’s note: Penny Dowie’s portrait ‘CAITLIN 1987’ of her niece, the actress Caitlin McDougall won the Inaugural Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 1988. I watched that portrait emerge in her studio in Strathalbyn and wrote this poem about it.)

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Penny Dowie's 'CAITLIN'

The face
    bold eyes, stunning stare
    defiant chin
    voluptuous mouth
Her face

A young lioness draped
    in cascading cloth
    trickling, tumbling, crisp and fluid
    lyrical lines
Vivaldi on canvas

"You think I'm soft?
    Look again!"

Strong hands on thighs
    legs wide spread without apology
    bored tilt of head
    eyes challenging without menace
Rare honesty

A centred soul

And yet
    symphony of softness
    subtle shades and tones
    shadowed fold between hands
    takes the eye down
    and along the sofa
    back up through a forest
    of wall flowers
To her face


"Do you know me yet?"

Stand back
    to get a closer look
    now see her
    beauty of power
    secret moods and desires
Private of mind

"My thoughts are my own business!"

No wilting flower this.

February 1990
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