Poetry » Jeanette Beebe »

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Venus at Her Mirror

She poses on the bed in front of the painter
and his mirror for hours, clenching her jaw

to stop herself from speaking. She tries to feel
nothing, so nothing will reflect in the mirror,

but it’s oil on canvas, not a selfie. No wonder
she looks like she’s been waiting for a while.

He must instruct her to stay still, like the color
of the canvas, an off-white turning in the sun.

When he paints, he creates whatever he sees
that isn’t her body, each stroke of the brush

slow, an outline of her shape, shading deeper.
He places her in position. He tells her to look

natural. Art is duplication. But he can’t capture
movement — only color, depth, light, shadow,

and even the blankness that grows within her,
that even we can see in the mirror, as she sits

turned, propped up as if she were weightless,
paler than the sheet she’s wrapped in, still life.