|A charcoal by Toulouse Lautrec|
by Maura Clement
Sabine bathes but does not wash her hair,
red curls carrying the smells of sorrowful music
and the sea, the wooden boats docked at La Rochelle.
She has run out of money and should return home,
but defeat lacks charm and where would she leave the cat?
So when the crippled artist asks her to lay, she lays.
The bed’s been unmade since Pentecost but she’s not religious.
Falling on her back, her eyes close though it is not night,
collapsing under the heat of the stilly, moist day.
Black stockings are all that separate herself from herself
and though she feels his bespectacled eyes watching her,
her hand slides up the torn silk slip trimmed in lace,
which was once her finest garment and now her only one.
She hears him work the charcoal on brown paper
and wonders if he thinks her beautiful,
because he often paints ugly people (or he paints people ugly.)
The bells ring on Montmantre, the artist sketches,
And Sabine takes pleasure in being alone.