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Life Drawing 1: Florence, Italy

Becca Hovland

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. 

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