Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Degas' Little Dancer

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Degas' Little Dancer

Article excerpt

the Joslyn Museum - Omaha, NE

He modeled you in wax and then he kept you

close by, in that dingy Paris flat he rented.

I suppose he wanted, all the while he slept,

to sense you in the room, your leg extended,

the insolent bangs, the hands locked behind.

I wonder if he reached out to caress you,

just to feel the muscled thigh his mind

had lingered over in studio. He dressed you

in real gauze, his fingers tucking the modest

tutu under the hard edge of your bodice.

After he died, they made two plaster casts,

and one of these gave rise to twenty bronzes.

Where were you when they poured that molten mass

into the womb of your negative? Have all your dances

come down to this? Did something of you last?

Or are you reduced to twenty identical stances

begotten on the fixed shape of your absence.

The wax model is now in a private collection.

Heat and handling may have dulled her features,

but the sculptor left a deeper imperfection.

X-rays show an armature beneath her--

wire, old paint brushes, whatever he could find

to keep her upright. When he smoothed her back,

he had to have felt the twisted trash inside

that only he could love, under the wax,

under his thumb - the unmalleable debris

that was somehow at the core of you, Marie. …

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