Georgia Ann Banks-Martin
After Seeing Agostina Segatori in the Café du Tambourin
I dropped my robe
checked my thighs,
the stretch marks are still there,
so are those twin freckle-size moles,
dark brown ink spots on my deep tan skin.
I skip my navel, I know the ring is crooked
four years of eating pizza, chips, cheese cake
will do that.
I think. If I go to one more spinning class
pump a little more iron, each week,
by Christmas I will be skinny
a little closer to forty
a little closer
never to being the girl
wearing her dark hair beneath a head rag,
alone at a too-small café table,
Grand Central Station
I am leaning against a wall
watching people disappear
into the tunnels that return them to trains,
A tall, thin man with a package in his arms
looks like my cousin Seneca
who spent one day of each month,
waiting for trains to carry him from the suburbs
to bring me a sack of nickels, dimes and pennies,
“If you put these in the bank you will have money
The man in a wheel chair is
reading a crime novel,
like a boy I used to date,
he had Spina Bifida,
he loved to read about serial killers.
A woman wearing a plain white scarf
reminds me of my best friend from high school
who dutifully wore her veil, tunic and pants.
While I sported tight jeans and an occasional
cleavage revealing V cut shirt.
But every morning with outstretched arms,
we greeted each other declaring:
“Darling, you look marvelous!”
My jewelry box plays Swan Lake
while the ballerina turns without noticing
the soda stained sheet music beneath her;
hymns to play Sunday at Mt. Zion,
next week New Hope Baptist,
maybe St. James AME the week after.
Mother insists I play for choirs,
music will give me security,
a skill that will always be needed,
I might even open my own studio,
fill it with students, she says.
Some measures are blurred,
but my fingers know the keys
just as my mind knows a dancer
satin ribbon holding loose braids,
fitted top fastened with fabric buttons
like a bride’s gown,
tulle skirt, milky pink tights,
back arched, arms locked behind her,
feet in fourth position.
X, letter, not last name,
a substitute for a name
no longer wanted.
Madame, French for Mrs.
drop the e and in English
she’s a whore.
Sargent dropped the left strap
of shiny gems off her shoulder,
plunged the neck line,
laid bare the full chest,
cinched the already small waist,
had her coyly twist her arm.
When scandal ensued,
he returned the jewels
to their place,
kept the name,
maintained the portrait
was the best he’d ever done.