Madame Poupoule at her Dressing Table

by Frank Osen

H. d. Toulouse Lautrec (1890)

The model is the artist of her place
but must compose herself within his pool
of ranging reds and blues, on which her face
floats pale and doughy as an unbaked boule.
She gazes at the mirror on her stand
and has the paint to paint herself a mask,
though underneath the master’s practiced hand,
she feels, one feels, unequal to the task.
His eye, so good at unseen faults in others
and at his own, picks out in her its kin,
then sets it so no flame or aqua smothers
this moment that’s reflected from within.
We see what’s yet more intimately there,
the deep regard of an unsparing stare.

Frank Osen lives in Pasadena, California. His work has recently appeared in The Dark Horse, The Raintown Review, and the Comstock Review and is currently forthcoming in the Evansville Review. He won the 2008 Best American Poetry series poem award and was a finalist for the 2008 Morton Marr competition and the 2006 Howard Nemerov sonnet competition. 
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Published 16 March 2010