Notes From a Black Figure Model
I am a slave to the time. Four 5’s, break. Two 10’s, break. One 20, break. Everytime the timer
ticks, I spread my legs and bend my hips and pose on command. I am a figure. An illusion of
mass. I exist only on paper. I am a slave to perception. I am the subject of objection. They try to
capture my Black stature on canvases through mediums of clay, paint, pencil and acrylic but I am
more than just my legs and limbs. I am a slave to distortion. No 2D images of me could ever
fully capture my soul, aura or energy.
I’ve seen white art students scribble me into a monkey. I would stare at my bulging eyes and
protruding lips and wide nostrils looking for facial recognition. Looking for resemblance.
Wondering if their caricature of me is due to their lack of skill, lack of exposure to diversity or if
the veil hanging over their faces is to blame.
I’ve seen Black art students draw me perfectly. Maybe it’s easier to draw an image that mimics
what you already see in the mirror daily. I’ve seen my collarbone drawn so realistically that they
could print a mini 3D version of me. Maybe she should get hired by HR instead of me. My
African figure and features shrunk down to a couple of inches might be easier to recreate if they
didn’t take up so much of my frame.
One more 20 minute pose. I sit with my body folded in half and my face pressed into my legs, in
the center of the room. I remind myself that I am just a figure. I am not the painter or artist. I
should not feel personally responsible for how I am repurposed through someone else’s
imagination. I am only hired to exist in a space. I cannot control the narrative or the story an
artist chooses to portray of me. I still pride myself on my self image, even though I am a slave to
distortion. I try to keep still and maintain my composure, knowing that everyone else’s
perception of me will be wrong. I sit naked and open but I have never been exposed.
In the air.
I was dizzy.
Love at first intonation kept my
I followed your voice
And found my body was steering
Down roads I had never before been.
Your words had me twisting
But they never lead me to a dead end.
We were two balls of energy,
Whose minds had been yearning
For an intellectual journey.
With your words
You kissed me.
I allowed your stories
To caress me.
With your point-of-view
You slowly undressed me.
Entering our own dimension of time,
I let your tongue dance
Up and down my spine.
I ignored all of the caution signs,
As we sped through flashing Yellow lights.
I never thought that I would ever
Find myself this open.
But we were both
Watermelon in July
He often finds himself dwelling
On the past and reckoning on the future
All the while ignoring the present fruits of his labor.
Everything always looks so bittersweet.
He never realizes how ripe and juicy
His melons are until he stops
To cut them open.
His watermelons are the sweetest in July,
His cantaloupes are spiritual
And just like his growth, his honey dew is
Non-tangible but can still be counted.
Even on his hardest days,
His melons are still adding up.
My mother was a culinary artist.
A local chef to the kids
Who lived on my street.
She decorated our kitchen table
With curry goat
Rice and peas
Split pea soup
Saltfish and provision
My brother and I ate the finest West Indian dishes,
Laced with turmeric, curry and saffron;
Sprinkled with habanero and Adobo.
My mother was a master multitasker.
In between curry dashes and salt and pepper shakes
She juggled dreams, a career and two children.
My mother never had time to teach me
How to make food.
She only had time and patience to cook.
My West Indian-American Fusion dishes
Are first-generation practice runs.
I never got the recipe book.
Still, I practice my culture daily.
I substitute saltfish for canned tuna
To make fish cakes.
I steep hibiscus flowers to make sorrel.
My curry stained countertop doubles as a cutting board
For ginger root and carrots.
I wine around the kitchen on my two bare feet
While my taste buds sail away to a culture overseas.
You can find traces of my practice runs
On my curry-stained jeans,
Curry stained countertops
And my curry-stained refrigerator door.
The hue of my soul and culture
Is too bright
To ever bleach out.
Amuche is an active local writer and teacher in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She studied Electronic Media and Film and Spanish at Towson University and plans to attend graduate school for Creative Writing this Fall. Amuche loves to share her words and poetry on local stages. In 2021, she was a featured poet at Busboys and Poets virtual open mic night. Her writing seeks to inspire people from all different walks of life.
Image: Voxbyrox, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons