by Devon Balwit
I lift my arms, instructed to hold
an imaginary ewer, but more likely
to raise my breasts for the artist’s
delectation, his tongue just visible
between his lips, his pencils rasping
over the rough paper. I feel
his eyes probing and palping. My skin
prickles, nipples nubs
against the cold. He is old. I imagine
a younger man’s hands,
a younger man’s mouth on the tendons
behind my knees, on the hollows
of collarbone and instep. In the steam
of the bath, I kiss
where I can reach, taking hunks of flesh
between my teeth to the point
of skin break, then letting go, watching
the welted bite pinking.
Each Saturday I disrobe in the chill studio
and stand before his easel,
watching him watching, watching my
doppelganger as she emerges
on the page crosshatched ever more fulsome.
I go to the opening, the nudes
prudishly enclosed behind wooden screens.
One ducks beneath to see breasts
and vulva, mine among them, then back out
for champagne. Some notice
who I am. They look and look again.
For the first time, I drink
too much, and sway. For years, the drawing
languishes in my parents’ basement until sold
with their estate. I have the chance to buy it,
but pass, spending just a moment
considering my younger self before dismissing her,
lifting the weight of so much nothing,
flushed with a now-sated hunger, her naiveté
painful to behold.
* * * * *
Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She has five chapbooks out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); and The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, The Stillwater Review, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River; Glass: A Journal of Poetry; Noble Gas Quarterly; Muse A/Journal, and more.