Life Drawing 1: Florence, Italy
She steps from her robe. Easels surround
her in a half moon -a dozen of us watch,
graphite poised above clean pages. She folds
her torso to her legs, wraps her arms around
her calves. Then she straightens, reaching
for the studio ceiling, breasts flattening
as she stretches, ribcage defined. I make
a line down my paper, cross it with another -
a faint grid like scaffolding to position her, shape
her. She's young, early twenties. The outline
of a watch circles her wrist -white skin bright
against tan. Dark hair is twisted up and pinned,
short pieces curling at the base of her neck, echoed
by the patches under her arms and between her legs.
Knees bend and unbend, feeling for a pose. Palms
press flat to the back of a chair, one leg bends
in a step forward, the other extends straight
behind -calves primed like a runner's, eyes focused
ahead. I sketch her rounded thighs and slight belly,
ghosting contours to shade later. Her face is not
quite still -eyes rest on easels, watching us
study her, lips pinch together for moisture. Yet
the corners of her mouth remain firm, aloof. Only
the soft etch of pencils fl.eeks the silence. Silence
that dims time as we dim the dents under her eyes,
the dip below the curl of her lips, the shadowed
shelf beneath her chin. But time shows when
she starts to tremble, and she breaks the pose, lifts
shoulders up and down, shaking out cramping
legs. Folding arms over her breasts, she steps
between the easels, heels not touching the floor.
Her eyebrows are raised, curious to see how we see
her. She stops at some to examine, to murmur bravo -
for others, she narrows her eyes, hardly pausing.
She weaves towards mine -steps to my side, leans
to look. Oh! she says, her face opening into a smile.
She inflates her cheeks, hands forming large
curved cups around her breasts in the air. Grande,
she says, laughs as she exhales. I like it.