Portrait of a Model

Karen M. Peluso

Florence, Italy, c. 1503

La Pollina he calls me.
Little chicken, indeed!
I, Mona Lisa Di Gioconda-
the great Leonardo’s pollina. Hah!
He is Nardo, il professore.

Slowly he paints
like an egg that is to hatch.
Two years and still I sit.
I made bambinos in less than that.
He studies my bones
as my flesh grows wide,
like warm dough rising.

Molto, molto bella, he calls, his voice a song.
Very beautiful. I do not hear that at home.
Sometimes while he works I dream:
Michelangelo with his magic chisel
raised in the air like the hammer of Thor,
sculpts me, his eyes roaming the curve
of my mouth, thigh and breast.

Then the stench of linseed oil
and paint, and Nardo calls me back,
La Pollina! Basta! Enough! For today.
Tomorrow is the same,
one more long day.
A little vino, some bread and fontina,
more sweet talk from the lonely professor.

Karen M. Peluso’s photographs and poems have appeared in Journal of NJ Poets, Connecticut Review, Potomac Review, The sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and Paterson Literary Review. She is from Ocean city, NJ and Beaufort, SC and travels the country with her husband, writer Clinton B. Campbell.