A poem by Carol Ann Duffy
Six hours like this for a few francs.
Belly nipple arse in the window light,
he drains the colour from me. Further to the right,
Madam. And do try to be still.
I shall be represented analytically and hung
in great museums. The bourgeoisie will coo
at such an image of a river-whore. They call it Art.
Maybe. He is concerned with volume, space.
I with the next meal. You’re getting thin,
Madam, this is not good. My breasts hang
slightly low, the studio is cold. In the tealeaves
I can see the Queen of England gazing
on my shape. Magnificent, she murmurs
moving on. It makes me laugh. His name
is Georges. He tells me he’s a genius.
There are times he does not concentrate
and stiffens for my warmth. Men think of their mothers.
He possesses me on canvas as he dips the brush
repeatedly into the paint. Little men,
you’ve not the money for the arts I sell.
Both poor, we make our living how we can.
I ask him Why do you do this? Because
I have to. There’s no choice. Don’t talk.
My smile confuses him. These artists
take themselves too seriously. At night I fill myself
with wine and dance around the bars. When it’s finished
he shows me proudly, lights a cigarette. I say
Twelve francs and get my shawl. It does not look like me.