Conte de Fées
Mother says I may not draw the men
Monsieur has hired to pose.
Also I must wear sleeves and skirts
which cling like the strips of damp muslin
we wind our figures with, the clay kept wet
when we go home. Then she scolds
my ruined hems, red-stained and stiff
with dust, my hands stripped dry
and cracked. She says None will want
to place a ring on a hand like that.
Back home I would not listen but escaped
down Rue Pignon to the woods
where boulders spill in malformed shapes
it’s said the devil made. I learned
from my first master it’s just sandstone
fused from the silt of ancient seas
and worked upon as all things are:
by time and accident, the wind’s blond brush,
rain the rasp I use to find
a figure in a quarried stone.
Master has gone to Rome so now Monsieur
Rodin will oversee our atelier. He says
surely École des Beaux Arts would have me
if I weren’t a girl. I know his figure
L’Age d’airain—the soldier empty-handed,
caught like a breath in the throat.
I’d never kissed a man until last night.
The others had gone back to their flats
as evening stole down the Seine. Monsieur
kept thumbing through my sheets,
setting aside the sketches he thought
showed immaturity. When I was young
Mother once found the figures I’d hidden
and cursed when she saw what they were:
nudes I had made when I felt an odd ache