Kiki de Montparnasse Moves to A Room of Her Own
In Paris, I had the choice of either nakedness: outside
my belly or within. I often tongued the gravel in my beans,
the grit of its blood softening against my teeth. Now
has come a different era. The catacombs underlining me
are a kind of grave. Bourgeoisie. Arriving plagues
disguised as birth: to be new and new and new again. Once,
I was the monument. Of course, I had to be. Give any girl her first
Paris winter and see how quick she learns to sit still-life. I used
to make my face up like a charcoal-rub, ash in my brow, singe
on my cheeks, until, finally, a sculptor invited me in. I was placed
in his studio with jars of dead butterflies, each pinned down
as if a consequence for their threat of flight, to speak nothing
of his immodest armory. And how he studied me, with his system
of mirrors, rigged such that he could see into any room of the flat.
But I know nothing if not how to make a wager of being watched.
Like a dustpan, I pocketed five francs from the clutter of his floor
and rented a cellar across the square on the longest road I could find.
I was just 14. It was the only time I lived alone by choice. One night
mademoiselle next door screamed Kiki! and I pressed my ear to the wall.
A man splintered through her locks, then cracked a vile of sulfuric acid
across her face. What could I do? My skin was as much a livelihood as hers.
I know better how to save myself than I do to win a fight. How often I forget
how I descended. My grandmother once slapped a Prussian for pinching
her thighs. She laughs when she tells it, A different war, back then. Now,
she’s nearly blind, and as wrinkled as an ocean in a storm. She loves
when I rub between the folds of her skin with Eau de Cologne.
She has so many! And with such gobs of dirt she cannot see.
Stephanie Lane Sutton was born in Detroit. She is a Michener Fellow at the University of Miami and a co-founding editor of |tap| lit mag. Her poetry has recently appeared in littletell journal, Dream Pop Press, and Day One, and is also anthologized in The Golden Shovel (University of Arkansas Press) and Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press). Find Stephanie online at stephanielanesutton.com