Berenson recalls how once, upon seeing a counterfeit,
he felt an immediate discomfort in his stomach,
and that is what she feels these mornings,
cropped at wrong angles in the hallway mirror,
chipped stars in her hair, skin almost translucent—
a shade darker before it touches air,
the gnawing in her belly thrumming as she hurries
to the art class that teaches color, paid for in kind,
her body an eloquent model of afternoon stillness.
One teacher dubbed her nature’s ventriloquist:
she channels rivers and thistle blades, the bite
of a lazy sunray, but has no understanding of human
expression, no artistic empathy. As students sketch, she re-roots:
the desiccated belly of her Moldavian village creek
toothed with rocks, eyed with shriveled minnows,
but she can still feel their eye, the hammock of her body
swayed by the screech of charcoals’ smooth incisions.
Tonight she steals in to see herself in various stages
of completion, looks for the hand knowing enough, kind enough
to release her. Fals, fals, fals, she croons as she sloughs off
each sketch, the verdict swift as a mouse down an owl’s throat,
then leaves the studio to finish off the night.
She wakes up full, pellet of fur and bones at her breast,
brand new, eyes speckled with blood.
“Immigrant Model” is from Immigrant Model (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015).