I call the poses.
First I give them gestures, thirty seconds
in which I twist my body — a quick line, a suggestion.
Next I say five minutes, and stand, hip out,
give them gray hollows
or peaks where light turns skin to silk.
Then my favorite, long pose:
I lie down, hair cast about my skull, a lady
struck by grief. I hold my breath;
I wonder if the men like my dirty feet.
The artists concentrate
on shoulder, nostril, cheek. I hear their fingers,
rubbing. Time, someone says. I hesitate
until the last brush drops into the turpentine,
then I lift my robe, step off the pedestal.
At first, no one speaks,
embarrassed, I suppose, at how they've known me:
One man paints me old. A boy
has sketched me hot, breasts sweet;
over here, I'm a woman bound.
I wait, and one by one, they pay me.
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