The Diary of La Gommeuse.
My nipples rubbed raw
by your paint-stained hands as you grandstand
and glower in some lofty corner
of the Boulevard de Clichy.
A product of the blue period
a despairing shimmer
mitigated by an aura of dignity and grace
or so they say.
Inspired by a lingering legacy
of the celebrated madmen
who careen through the streets of antiquity
brooding crows collecting their credit
acquiring shiny strands of goldleaf
lining their nests and pressing me
beneath their feathered asses.
Long nosed and velvet wrapped
they declare me a siren
unabashed by my nakedness
my defiant eyes fixed on the singular prize
of their gilded reflections.
But appraise me
with an honest gaze and I will turn inward.
My concave shoulders shivering in this drafty cage
of high beams
clutter and carved wood.
I am tired
of standing still
of fixing my eyes on the slick backs of blackbirds
of being drawn
See how I tilt my pelvis just so
a winking eye
the rise of a lioness’s smile.
Observe me as I shrug
as if to say
so what Picasso?
to your dreary brushstrokes
to your singular engagement
with the existential questions of life
fate and death?
We all have our hard luck ditties
the desire to paint over the creeping stains of our crumbling ceilings
leave our masterpieces scattered
abandoned in lonely abodes
the attics of old uncles
and other such oppressors.
We have all blurred ourselves
slopped a brush across our checks
applied a thin coat of snow
transformed our deep lines into a kind
of temporary beauty.
The pink of my neck
is a talisman for your sneaking departure
from this cobalt coolness
this absinthian haze.
pursue your lighted path of warm rose and ochre
where Madame Fernande awaits you
amidst a rowdy crowd of jostling jugglers
harlequins and clowns.
I must demure
refuse to pursue you.
I will remain here as I am
destitute darling of the dying embers of the Belle Epoche
belly bloated with the ennui of the army
of melancholy men who have poured themselves into me
like clotted cream.
I will not submit my reddest bits to your deconstruction
allow you to splay me wide
reduce me to an aesthetic arrangement
of side lying triangles and asymmetrically sliced ovals.
I will remain
slouched and closed shouldered
in your Paris abode
staring past your feverish unwashed scalp
awaiting a future
some day of perfection
when your procession of madmen
will lie lined like boned fish in tin graves
painted over by layers of shine
and innocent whispers of your presumed preciousness.
Onward to the day when some pale and efficient hand
will sweep me from the plush carpets
of Sotheby’s for the cool sum
of 67.5 million
–a handsome price to be sold for
if you are to be sold–
sold as we all are
to the highest bidding bourgeoise.