Robert Farnsworth

The Pose

                                                for Georgia


Remember the sculptor you modeled for — 

the long afternoons at his estate?

All his precious metals deny my tastes now, 

the drift of recollection this depends on,

but I would like to tell you anyway,


give back that day to you as it has come

to linger in me I could begin with proverbs,

or with peacocks something about poverty

and love and jealousy, the armatures I took

for inspiration. I’d have clothed us all so


truthfully in words. but now I think

that bird, opening the hundred eyes

of its plumage, and the squalls it gave out

all afternoon furnish a better entrance.

Unable to make any literate use


of the pastoral time he’d provided,
I dozed in a hammock, or toured the grounds

discovering his pieces a bronze deer

curled up on a brambled hillside,

a four-foot iron locust poised beside a hedge.


He’d rifled creation, as if before the scales

of things had been assigned, and set these

beasts in his cool woods for pleasure.

I began to wonder what he would make

of your earnest face, the difficult moods


of your eyes, the grace you had, undressed.

Of course he would avoid those eyes.

Hadn’t I? I had not even learned to say

what happened as it had, and so I envied

his dominion over surfaces and shadows.


When later he asked me into the studio,

I stared at the sketched and Polaroids

he’d taken of his people, animals, insects–

where did the spirit live in all that flesh?

Huge moths, their wings mooned with azure,


hug in velvet-lined cases on the wall.

Bare0chested like a deckhand, his apprentice

was buffing a peacock of hammered bronze

and copper, its tail furled in a log heavy arc.

Wiping his hands on a smock, the artist smiled,


and said, .’Why don’t you walk around it.

I’m letting it take its own course now–

as a writer you know what I mean.”

You had been swimming back into the arms

of your shirt; now I felt your hand


in mine and was grateful. We edged around

the image too heavy-hipped, I thought.

One arm was crossed behind its back,

the left akimbo, caught in a kind of swagger.

One foot bore five articulated toes; the other


had yet to emerge from plastic wrapping.

Some wasted clay was stuck on the flank.

He had found the fine severity of your gaze,

but the wide, unfocused eyes and parted lips

strained after sound, as if muted in a dream


the figure’s pose did not belong in.

Everything I feared in you was in that stance,

that body declaring itself alone, but love

did seem a way to soothe its empty cry.

I must have said something, but today,


having found the program for the show

in which the cast head alone sold for thousands,

I don’t know what it was.  He carefully fit

a bag over the figure.  He had to think it over.

For a while Next Saturday perhaps?


Rain had begun to mutter in the leaves,

and the peacock had strutted for shelter.

Pity took hold of me, for the deer

in the woods—for his presumption and my

own, our attempts to draw the spirit


up to the skin and hold it there,

in pewter, in a blush of poetry or memoir.

This afternoon, looking at your rumpled

dress flung over a chair, I recall

that he meant to clothe the figure,


but it never seemed to work.  He moved on

to something different.  We moved away.

Eight years later, sunlight burnishes our bed.

And I am still happily abashed to be waiting

on the love your empty dress is promising.




“The Pose” is from Honest Water (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)