Figure Drawing at Community College

This flash piece was just published in Rusty Truck.  Thanks, Scot!


I’m getting goosebumps from a draft, though the class doesn’t notice. Most are open-mouthed, charcoal scratching paper, concentrating on the weight of my breast, curve of hip, sag of buttock. I bite my lip, think of the rigidity of a villanelle, try to compose one in my head while the old guy in a beret for god’s sake, studies the cleft, the pubic mound, then meets my eyes.

I want to yell, “I just want to earn enough to get cable,” but I look away, try to show disgust without showing disgust because the woman who will pick up kids from school at 4 is drawing my face. My arm is falling asleep. The instructor said to tell her when I need a break, but the young man by the window is so intent, I hate to interrupt him. I start to tremble, try to shift but not throw off the line. The villanelle becomes a limerick.

There once was a nude on a table
Who couldn’t afford to get cable…

Trembling. Can’t feel my arm at all.

She posed for a class
Where an old man was crass,

Ah, the instructor is announcing a break. I raise my body off my arm and feel electric shocks as blood starts to flow. I reach for my kimono. The old guy sidles up to me.

“Coffee later if you are able?” he asks. Shit, he’s finished my limerick. I walk away rubbing my arm. “Maybe tomorrow?” he calls.

– Sarah Russell
Photo courtesy of Blot Magazine

48 thoughts on “Figure Drawing at Community College

  1. I LOVE this… Georgi

    On Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 7:59 PM Sarah Russell Poetry wrote:

    > sarahrussellpoetry posted: “This flash piece was just published in Rusty > Truck. Thanks, Scot! > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ > I’m getting goosebumps from a draft, though the class doesn’t notice. Most > are open-mouthed, charcoal scratching ” >

    Liked by 1 person

      1. impressed with your limerickabilityity
        your coining words, your new ability?
        like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
        except that one is particularly atrocious
        what else did you learn at that faculty

        Joking aside, thank you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a terrific end, and such a weird situation to have to sit model for an arts class….
    Reminds of a story my father told me when he took art classes, and the old teacher commented on his sketch with a whisper everyone heard:
    “You are right, young man, she is definitely not a beauty”


    1. How awful of that teacher!! Truly an objectification of the poor model — woman as still life. Oooo, I’ll bet there’s a poem in there! Although I must admit that when you are the artist in the situation, you find yourself concentrating on a square foot of flesh exactly as you would a bunch of grapes in a bowl. Weird sensation when you catch yourself doing it!


  3. Oh, how this took me back! I was an artist’s model for a while in my mid-twenties, and again in my mid-forties. It’s much harder work than it looks, and one learns all sorts of tricks for shifting the weight without appearing to when it gets uncomfortable. Luckily I never had any crass class members; everyone was very kind and respectful. But I certainly did compose poetry in my head as a way to pass the time during the longer poses. 🙂


    1. So glad it resonated for you, Rosemary! I used this piece as a reading at an art exhibit of “figurative drawing” about a year ago. Great response— nods from those who had modeled, a bit of guilt from the artists. I have been on the “drawing” end, and always felt great compassion for the models. A couple of times I wished I could have drawn their goosebumps or depicted their trembling.


      1. The wonderful thing about being an artists’ model (putting the apostrophe in the correct place this time) is that you don’t have to be a beauty! It’s much more interesting and useful for the students to have a variety of bodies to learn on. The nearest anyone came to an unintentional insult was to say I was a nice change from ‘the – er – more athletic figures’ (carefully refraining from eyeing my rolls of fat) lol. The highest compliments was always, ‘You have a very interesting body’.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This was perfectly done! I like the way you set the tone. I love the way you gave a voice to someone who people like Old Beret Head would automatically objectify and dismiss. The humor was great. I also loved how you snuck in a bit of poetry. 😀


  5. This tale is a delicious hoot. The description had me in stitches. I can see all the people there, feel the narrator’s discomfort and the way she deals with it. And the end is awesome–an artist and a mind-reader, oh my! 😀

    I removed the link from a Pantry of Prose because I don’t know which option (if any) you chose. I felt rotten for removing this one, since it is so good. But I don’t want to be unfair to the others I’ve removed because of not meeting the guidelines. If I’m mistaken, and this just happens to be an older story that meets one of the choices, just let me know which… and we’ll add it again. Apologies, if my instructions were confusing.


    1. As I’ve said in some of my comments, I haven’t been the model, but I have been the artist in these situations many times. I thought this fit the 3rd creative non-fiction prompt for the story.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m surprised that you don’t write stories, Rajani. I thought you’d summon that magical realism of your poems and take us to places I can’t even imagine. I find for myself that sometimes a narrative poems becomes richer as a story, but sometimes, it’s bogged down. If a poem “takes off” and goes to a bigger idea than just what it’s about, then it stays a poem. But if it doesn’t have that moment, often it develops more depth as a story. Does that make sense?


      1. Lost the comment I was typing…here I go again: I agree- think it’s so important poems have layers that unravel with each reading. Haven’t tried serious story writing- am afraid all my characters will become cliches of my own ideas and stereotypes. Perhaps, someday a story without people- something surreal. 🙂


  6. Oh, I love getting a glimpse into the mind of the art model. The humor mixed in is such a treat. I’m not sure I could have held the pose with the old guy leering his way along my body. Great write!


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