Object of Art

They are, in a way, unaware
of my nakedness, making me
forget it too. Unashamed, I am Eve
before the fall, in this place
actually nothing like Eden, a place
where it’s hard work to create beauty—
concrete floor spaces converted
into classrooms; industrial pipes
running the length of the ceiling.
What can I look at while they draw me,
paint me? Truly, here nothing is beautiful
in and of itself—I am just a collection
of parts, composition of muscle and bone
under skin. Their pencils skim paper;
the sides of their fists soften sharp lines.

It’s day two of an extended five-class pose
and I can’t remember which side my hair
was parted on for Tuesday’s session.
One of the students sitting in front
of her easel wears men’s swimming trunks—
turquoise printed with indigo sharks—
and black pseudo-combat boots, laces untied.
Her hair is shaved into a mohawk;
her eyes, winged with black liner. I’m curious to hear
the voice that belongs to this girl;
I wonder if I can make her face
abandon its deliberate lack of expression.
Before I walk to the mat and settle into my pose,
I ask her about my hair.

She looks at her canvas, then back at me,
saying, “I think the other side,” in a voice
almost shy, a tone almost sweet,
and smiles. I don’t think she knows
her mohawk and ill-fitting clothes don’t disguise
her round cheeks, almost cherubic—like a baby’s—
and flawless light skin. Her eyeliner
makes her long lashes stand out
even more. I’ve glanced at her many times
while she’s worked, intent on representing
the truth, even though I heard
the professor say once:
“There is no truth—art is our own
subjective interpretation of reality,”
and although his self-consciously post-modern
declaration had made me want to roll my eyes,
now I see what he meant. I smile back at the girl
and adjust my hair with my fingers as I walk
to the mat, where I slip off my robe, lie back and fix
my gaze on the gray cement ceiling—its cracks
like lightning, pocks like stars.

Kate E. Schultz earned her MA in English from Ohio University in 2008, where she also served as assistant editor of New Ohio Review. Her work has appeared in Bayou Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Cottonwood, and others. She is currently an associate editor of Sow’s Ear Poetry Review.

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