How she is quiet before his robe falls
each week to his ankles. This man who sits, nude
for my wife, whom she draws with Conté sticks
and pastel pencils. Each page in her notebook
is a parade of his torsos, galley proofs
of breastbones and chests. She explains
because these lines are my favorite
and shows me, traces with her knuckle tip
chin to sternum, jaw to shoulder, clavicle to cusp
of the arm. How in three passes
an artist makes a place for a head
to rest. Later, in blue and orange
pigments mixed at the edge of a knife, thinned
with linseed oil and mineral spirits,
my wife will paint him on a canvas
primed black. Again his body will end
just above the pelvis, will fade
into a fog of armrest or shadow, cushion
or hip as if rendered in some fugitive dye.
Because he is only the second man I have seen naked,
in person. His, just the third I have seen in my life.
When I tell my wife I want to write about her
naked, sketch her back’s faint taper
as a class might to check perspective, describe
the moles I notice on the underside of a breast
as we make love, she says I can. And, in return,
she will paint the whole of me, bare
from the neck down as I pose
in our living room. No one will even know
this is you. The light will blank out your face.
“Life Drawing” from Reliquaria by R.A. Villanueva. Copyright © 2014 by R.A. Villanueva. Published by University of Nebraska Press. Used with permission of the poet.