With my full belly dripping down to the earth, my breasts
following, two friends, down the same path, my face
becoming graven, grave with age, with something called
regret—the same that makes us stop and say, “How sad,”
and read the little placard near the ornate frame, wonder
at her past, her love affairs, her childhoods—first and last:
did she love the man who saw her, did she see
herself in his eyes, did she know she would be looked at,
laid bare: the woman turning away from the artist,
the woman searching the hills of thick green and yellow
paint for answers—a lover, a farmer, a friend, the man
coming for the rent money?
I am Madame X in my long black
dress, daring you to talk to me, arrogant, exposed, so pale—
a calla wrapped in midnight.
I am the Manet woman behind the marble
bar staring at you—behind me the busy emptiness of all
that frantic celebration.
I am the ballerina in a white wisp
dress and a blood red scarf, a flame in the wind, one leg
drawn up for that next step never taken, the other leg taking
all that weightless weight.
I am Cézanne’s woman with strong square
hands, clutching the rough wooden beads, a long loop
of regrets and blessings to which I bow, the gentle slope
of my shoulders in my rough black shawl blending
into the room’s dark gray.
Where do I find myself in these women
do they find themselves in me
when did I become one of these women
do I break out of my frame?