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Camille Claudel Refuses to Sculpt Clay that Sister Saint Hildafonse Has Given to Her at the Asylum

ISSUE:  Winter 2006

     Hoarding is my only comfort.
It builds,
     and rocks are rocks. It builds and
your brow, Sister, is a brow.

                Your bulbous cheeks
do not stir me. Your dimpled chin means
     Keep it to yourself. Your girth.

Your wimple
          and mouth. Your paunch
of chin.
     The small spade of your nose.

Flaunt them—the nostrils tensed
                and fully flowered—
they will not lure my fixed attention.
Recite your Bible:

     The eye cannot say to the hand,
“I have no need of you.”

But my eyes tell my hands, Be still. Hush.
Don’t cry.
See how they listen and behave?

If you want me to be sane, I will be
tepid, punctual.
          No clay beneath my nails.
Do all diseases begin as cures?

It must be like the love of God.
     Fervor that must be tended—
or the body is a firetrap.
          Forgive me, Sister.

We know each other too well.
Sometimes you walk into my room—
broad and proud as a bridegroom
          and I do not hate you

          and you do not hate me.
Were you a sad child? Did they not love you?
Tell me, my bullfrog.
          Tell me again, my pet.

I will forgive you all of this, my captor.
I will forgive you for this table with its lump of clay.
Slip me a key and I will speak of you in heaven.
Tomorrow at noon.

     Let me. Past the gates. Alone.
Think of it—
one of us allowed to leave this place alive!
Watch me, down the blue path.


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