Portrait of an Artist as a Young Lady

by Julia Watson

She stares at herself,
               fleshy, naked in the mirror.

She stares at the plump creases
               above her elbows, the splotchy tan
applied to her legs and arms—

the dissidence

—how it only brightens the virgin glow
              of her mid-body. The thousands

of dollars spent to clip away at her hips,
              her butterfly wings. The hundreds

of dollars spent to paint her body, with watercolor
              and galaxy dust— a hummingbird,

a sun eclipsing her right breast. The money
             she wishes she had to dwarf her bosom
closer to her heart.

The stark blue vein, like a river basin, trickling
              down to her pink nipple— a cerulean reminder
of how her body aches to live.

There were the copper stars, of course. One sleeping
              right next to her left knee.

As a child, she pretended it was the eye of an elephant
              and lifted its trunk in celebration.

And the scars, of course. A long, salmon one
              that kissed her elbow and wrist.
It appears as if a worm was sun-seared
               into her skin.

There was the dash through her upper lip
               from sibling aggression years back
that glowed when she smiled.
               She liked that one

She liked it a lot.

© 2019 Helen: a literary magazine