Carol V. Davis: "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping"



              after Lucian Freud


Even on the canvas, the skin breathes, as dough rises 

and falls without visible help.

I wonder how she could sleep when the painter was studying her.

One arm supports a breast that resembles not flesh

exactly, but a mound, unknowable as Medb's Cairn 

atop a sheep path in County Sligo.


He bought that couch for her, a deep seat, ample enough

for her body, patterned with roses and haphazard vines, 

stuffing poking out.

The journalist asks if it were not a bit daunting to have one's 

generous breasts and lolling stomach revealed. 

Big Sue laughs; she was nervous at first, but got used to it.


In college I spent a year figure drawing in a room with corner windows.

One model was beautiful, perfectly rounded, 

with an ease many women would envy, never 

flinching under our concentrated gaze.

She banked her beauty. I cannot think of any woman

who trusts her body with such certainty.

We are all too ready to pick at the parts, thighs spilling out,

eyes set too close, ankles thick as winter stockings.

The Benefits Supervisor is still sleeping after all these years, 

a comfort that she never ages, no fresh wrinkles to examine.

No peering in the mirror wondering whom she had become.


Carol V. Davis is the author of Between Storms (2012). She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg. Twice a Fulbright scholar in Russia, her work has been read on NPR and at the Library of Congress and is in the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. She received a 2015 Barbara Deming grant and is poetry editor of the Los Angeles newspaper, The Jewish Journal. She teaches at Santa Monica College and Antioch University Los Angeles.