after “Women at her toilette”, Edgar Degas, c 1900-5

Seated on a bench outside the steam room,
          near the whirlpool while I am drying off
from my shower, I see a larger woman,
          30ish, smooth tanned skin, rubbing
moisturizer over her body.
          I think of Degas’ women climbing out
of the tub, or leaning over a basin
          set on the floor. The flesh becomes beautiful,
in Woman at her toilette, c1900-5, where
          a woman is seen in a three-quarter pose,
with a towel in her right arm washing
          her neck, the other hand holding her long
auburn hair providing another
          angle in her bent arm. She tilts between
yellow and orange drapery, her long auburn
          hair pulled back to show a curved neckline.
In the locker room, our bodies pass along
          the way in and out to the pool or showers,
women matting their hair, drying their backs,
          under their arms, wrapping too small towels
around their bodies, walking to their lockers,
          talking about politics, children, movies.
In Degas’ work there are no stick figures. Walking
          naked feels natural in this sanctuary.
And yet, why do I want to be a stick?
          So much about the way my butcher father
cut up the female body. Everything
          was a meat market. Slicing the cow, gutting
the chickens, grinding meat for hamburger.
          How much does this weigh upon my lean shoulders?