Racing past bushes, my grandchild
summits a log, wobbles and falls,
ignores my open arms.
She shrieks, bends low and swats
then examines a scrawl of trembling legs
that resemble a word, mid erasure.
It flickers until she strikes again,
meets my eyes, a victor.
I chide, these are creatures,
and still her soft hands
slapping at nymphs,
black and red speckles
like blood from battles, from myth.
Yes, invaders, but
what should I teach her?
I’ll only rampage later,
alone, armed with suds and rolled papers,
In class we admire Tom, the model’s ruddy skin,
the loose way he holds his jaw, without
regret, the architecture of his cheekbones, offered outward
the most vulnerable angle of his face.
Here, anyone might take a swing, but
unconcerned, he gazes out
beyond our circle of easels and arms
stroking and swiping with brushes.
He is beautiful and survives, old dancer.
I’ve painted him for years
in life class or open studio and know
he does flamenco.
I used to keep a distance from the models.
But today he confides
of arthritis, doctors’ warnings
not to pose on hard surfaces.
There’s swelling in his knuckles
which I render with Prussian blue shadows.
His could be
priests’ hands giving benedictions
or painters’ hands, like mine,
which tire and twitch after an hour.
I wish he could pose as he once did,
wrists snapped to the rafters, arched spine but
as he mounts the model’s stand
his palms wilt like nightflowers.
Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA, USA. Her poems appear in Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, 6ix, North of Oxford, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent, Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017) and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, forthcoming 2021). She received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy. Her artwork is on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery (www.ceruleanarts.com).