They posed for a pittance
They posed for a pittance. Plus extra for taking off their drawers.
Among them a white-haired kid, permanently happy,
a Greek hero for fifteen minutes, then he ran off for a beer.
Either they froze in the studio with the windows open,
or else we suffocated with the windows shut.
Made to stand, made to sit, modeled, in the brief breaks they rubbed their feet,
strolled up and down the corridor in jackets tossed over their shorts.
The chubby anarchist nearing thirty demanded “a pose with a book”
and against the drapery, naked, she crammed for high-school exams.
The night-club dancer with puzzling bruises secured every twitching muscle:
for him it was simpler to turn to stone in flight than to sit down on a chair.
In the brief breaks they would ask us for a light.
We’d smoke together on a faded bench,
on stairs, and on windowsills.
And then we’d return to our easels, they to their platforms.
They fidgeted, they went numb. In coughing fits the beauty
wheezed: please be inspired by me, don’t copy me.
A giantess came too, she stood with legs astride,
her cap of hair in the light, her face in the shade.
© translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones