On Her Mettle

(Degas' Sculpture)

The way the bronze silk sagged
against your skin in layers, in that hollow
just below your knee, caught
my eye--though why I'd look this long
and closely at such a young girl's
leg tugged
against my gaze now noting
how your wrinkled shin
inclined ahead of the other
knee bent to bear your weight--slight
weight--through hips cocked and skirted
in aged tulle. Hands
hooked behind you,
arms back for balance, near
flat chest sloping that way, too. Then
fabric again, a ribbon taming the flow
of your pony tail
cast forever. Above
all, the poise of your face, that hauteur
with which your eyes have ignored such
connoisseur scrutiny
since 1880, when Degas
eyed someone resembling you
in Paris, in the flesh, in the midst of
practice when her garter slipped.



Jim Bill


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