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Camille Claudel Bathing in the Lake Near Chateau D’Islette

ISSUE:  Winter 2006

In a few days, a new bathing costume will arrive by post.
Auguste Rodin—I’ve told the illustrious bull to buy me one
at the Bon Marche.
         Imagine him—dusted white—

wooly and dazed as a big sheep among the hive of women,
—the flit and dither of motion.

                 Hold still, he would tell them.
Turn, turn, lift, yes, there. Don’t move.
A glimpse of swollen calf,
                  the hand’s raised veins.

But the women of the Bon Marche wouldn’t listen.
They know better than to believe that life

                          is raised up out of stone.
Of course he won’t go to the Bon Marche.
He will send one of Rose’s servants
with a note: one bathing costume—

dark blue with white piping, two pieces,
blouse and pants (medium size).

He will say it’s for one of his models in Azay—
he eases into lies like a woman into a lake,
a brilliant woman into a lake.
(I am convinced of my genius,

      and there is no greater lover than my own genius.)
The servant will tell Rose who will fume and cry—

her face, a rose, yes, as a rose is a furious fist.
In the overripe garden, he’ll pick at the dry plaster
of his corduroy and worry over my mood
and tell his favorite story to an assistant—
the one about me and the birds in Renoir’s house
trapped in the shutters, how I opened the latches

and watched them burst into the sky.
Rodin is jealous (like a mother of a brilliant daughter).
Each time I slip under water—how easy it is to disappear;

the world filled with thieves—
         the lake’s surface is a lit window.


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