On the way to your studio, a Cooper’s hawk
dove in front of me. It left clutching yellow leaves
and not a single sparrow. I knew then,
somehow, that I would never take my own life.
And I knew it when I sat still
before your easel and watched you
holding your sighting stick to measure
my trunk. Occasionally, you pressed fingers
against my legs and hips, bluntly
but with care. You are learning
about the body and its trappings.
You’ve referred to my clavicle as a bony
landmark. There are so many ways to speak
about the body. There is a mundane history
of people telling their god, If you’d asked me
if I wanted to come here, I would have said no.
When I was your age, I entered the woods
with my hurt and sat against a tree and was
surrounded by deer that paid me no mind.
Their feet made no noise. They had no scent,
no color. You’ve painted my hair across my back
as fire. You’ve painted my face in mourning
and didn’t know. Sometimes I’m filled with fear
at the thought of seeing this through,
like I was that day in the woods, when all I wanted
was to lie like a dropped antler on the forest floor.
Still, today I’m thrilled to be shown
the muscles of my own back, drawn in charcoal.
The bones of my pelvis seem larger than my hips,
warmed over with skin. We’ve a history
of telling our gods, If you asked me if I wanted to leave here
I would say no. Done with your work, we walk
to the diner for pancakes. You have a smudge
of yolk-colored pigment under your nose,
another ashy stain near your right ear. The machine
of my body is humming. There is a record
of my body, resting on your easel. It is static, almost.
I saw the Cooper’s hawk leave the ground with nothing,
and carry it into the air. The nothing he carried
was yellow. It was the most beautiful thing.