the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Cortney Davis

Life Model

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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