Standing Girl in Plaid Garment

Egon Schiele, Standing Girl in Plaid Garment, source: WikiPaintings

Egon Schiele, Standing Girl in Plaid Garment, source: WikiPaintings

Several people told me they liked my poem named after this great drawing by Egon Schiele, so I’ve decided to share here a short fiction I wrote several years ago when I was working regularly in that genre. I called it The Black Cat.


The Artist Speaks

She came to me tonight, without my having to ask, just like the black cat that greets my open door. I let her in, of course. I’d be a fool not to, I mean, look at her. She doesn’t even know how beautiful she is. She needs me to show her. First I run my hands through her hair. That prim look just doesn’t work. You need wind in your hair, I tell her, and take off your coat. Are you sure? she says, with a smile that doesn’t sit well on her face. She’s naked under the coat. No, I say, and all of a sudden she’s shy. I grab the plaid throw from the chair, the one the cat curls up in, and drape it over her shoulder. The thing reeks of cat and I must suppress my amusement at her obvious discomfort. But that perfumed powder she uses makes me gag. I give her a strong drink and watch her take it down. The poor girl can’t stand it, but will do anything I ask. She thinks I love her, but only because she thinks all men love her. They don’t. But I know how to make them. I know how to make the whole world love her. A ladder won’t do. She must be standing. Tall. My god, look at those fingers! No I won’t use a ladder. No one must look down upon my standing girl, my bent and rebuilt Madonna. She will be the ladder, tall as Liberty! And eyes, eyes, innumerable eyes will climb up and down her, forever!

The Model Speaks

I went to him tonight. Of course he let me in. He took pity on me. I was shivering under my coat. He’s kind, no matter that they call him blasphemous, immoral and depraved. Why the very idea makes me laugh! He’s as touchy and fragile as a butterfly. They’ll never know the damage they’ve done. What could be more blasphemous, immoral and depraved than to chain the hands of an artist or to consign his work to flames? His only sin is that he only sees the surfaces. But I can see his heart. He thinks he doesn’t love me but I know he doesn’t love his whores either. Those filthy street cats aren’t like me. I could have anyone, but I chose him. He insists on humiliating me. Giving me that foul blanket to wear and that revolting drink. Blowing the smoke from his incessant cigarettes into my hair as he musses it all up. But I know that he’s only trying to make me look like a whore because he’s afraid of what is pure and light and whole. He’s afraid he doesn’t deserve it. But I’ll show him. I’ll win. I’ll make him honest and free with the purity of my love. I have all the time in the world.

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7 Responses to Standing Girl in Plaid Garment

  1. Brendan says:

    I love these dialogues, these tandem perceptions of a shared moment — its like getting the poop from both Orpheus and Eurydice. Here the encounter is close — nose to nose — so much so that the muse to the artist becomes her own vantage, its ladder, while the muse uses the artist to become world. The one beginning to see what the other always knew.

  2. ManicDdaily says:

    Very interesting idea for a story! Intriguing especially part I and works well. And I love the Schiele. You’ve animated it so cleverly. K.

  3. hedgewitch says:

    A fascinating addition to your poem, Mark. A lot of personal and artistic truths in this, hammered in lightly in neat rows, each one attaching one more realization to hang on a wall that would otherwise be blank and yawing with chaos. The mirror imaging of lovers/subject/artist becomes a prism of love itself. I am especially impressed by how well you posit the model’s side, as it seems intrinsically female to me, and gender so often seems to inhibit us from really being able to have such insights into the other. You’ve transcended all that well, and both sides/POV’s seem equally real.

  4. Susan Scheid says:

    The line “his only sin is that he only sees the surfaces,” is such a beautifully forgiving line.

  5. newleafsite says:

    Mark, you express so much in such a short piece. I was uncomfortable until the end, where you begin with “But I know that he’s only trying…” And then it becomes a transformation: you reveal her as a goddess, wise and serene. Beautifully done! — Elizabeth

  6. angela says:

    You’ve inspired me to revisit my thoughts on flash fiction. Enjoyed the he thought/she thought approach – most clever way to explore what seems a rather complex scene with very few words. ~

  7. ManicDdaily says:

    Hey Mark–fun to return to this. It is such a wonderful drawing–I like Schiele –but you have your own great style–I love to see yours also. k.

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