I am becoming the women in the museum

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?


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