The Painter is not Courageous:
Madame X, by John Singer Sargent
I am the painting.
I know what I will be before the artist lifts his brush. He thinks it’s the other way around. I shock you with my unsheathed skin and smile at your outrage. The canvas shakes as I mock your gaze. Black satin drapes around my hips like Chopin’s finger’s caressing his Nocturnes, and you are jarred. Your complacent bourgeois lives are unhinged from the moorings, and you quiver. Yet, I am still. I am here by my own volition. My bare arms are for no one but myself. Look away if you are offended and swallow Absinthe in a dark corner to assuage your torment. Frankly, I’m bored. The way you judge me – the way you believe you know my thoughts, the way you dissect my life – provokes my contempt.
The painter is not courageous. He is a rube – desperate to attain notoriety. He refuses to let my jewel encrusted strap slip down over my right shoulder.
What cowards these men are.
History will portray me as powerful, immovable, irreverent – everything men fear in a woman. And despite all your cowardice pressing in on me, I will prevail. Drop your paint brush and run to your mother, painter, while I fashion my own destiny. All of you, run home to your mothers while I dare to fly. You hate to be told what to do so you stay and gawk. Fools. Stare as long as you can, until your hearts stop beating. Here, let me slip this silly strap off my shoulder. Yes, I love many men. So what? You hide your infidelities behind cloaks of deceit but scrutinize me? How dare you.
The strap has fallen.
Leave it, painter.
Deborah’s writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has been anthologized, or is forthcoming, in several journals. Her story, “Pray for Rain” was selected as runner-up finalist for Light and Dark Magazine’s first Flash Fiction Contest and “Iris with Mermaids” was shortlisted for the Into the Void Fiction Prize. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College.
The Ekphrastic Review
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