Sunday, May 9, 2010

Madame X

Filthy man! He calls himself Artist!
We pay him a fat lawyer's fee
for his talent at offending me.
Those black eyes see naked flesh
where others see slips or camisoles.
He grins privately, licks his mustache,
strikes me in profile when my nose
is my least attractive feature,
and poses my bust straight ahead.
He's painting my blush, isn't he,
to set the whole world gossiping,
when I wouldn't let him touch me
with his brush! My husband hired
him, as usual, without a resume,
sight unseen. I asked if he'd seen
a sample. "One, my dear," he said,
"which approximates our nephew's head."
My revenge had been this gown,
as expensive as it is décolleté,
and I suppose I dreamed a painter
to be schooled in professional behavior,
like my hairdresser and physicians,
to be marble-cool near bare shoulders-
but those eyes are blind to elegance
and see in sophistication only sex.
He flickers like black flame licking
the canvas with daubs of paint to show
that he's so serious in his art;
a wink and he'd be at me like a shark.
My neck! This portrait is overdue.
Aren't voyeurs prone to exhaustion too?
God would have had to think again
had he spent not seven days, but ten.
And when it's done, what will he have
made of me? Will I look exactly
as I am, well or badly drawn, my
beauty replaced by oily paint
or psychologically portrayed-
the face of hunger or deceit?
Will he trap each hair and mole, each
blemish like weird species in a zoo?
I'd be happier looming through a screen,
through a window dripping in the rain.
I should listen to my little sister
and have it done quickly by photographer.
Yes? Fine. So. He says it's finished
and invites me to look. A threat.
Let's see if it has been worth it.
My word! I'm so . . . do I seem so
to him? Yes, he's made a mistake
with my bosom, but my chin-
I hadn't thought the line that clean.
He teaches me to appreciate my nose.
My hair glows, darkness with a sheen.
My skin, alabaster everywhere, except
my ears, which do, I know, go red at
the least distress; my lips never
spoke such thoughts in mirrors; a kiss
from them I'd be wanton to bestow.
He's cut a heart out of my dress;
from waist to breast, the black cloth
flares and makes my shape a gift
to the admirer, while much else is left
undraped. Certainly the neck
is false, too long, too muscular.
Perhaps it's all the pose he gave me.
My husband will conclude he raped me.
I was wrong and I will tell him.
Oh, he's gone! I didn't see him go!

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