Trained for Your Looking


I am sitting here,
as previously and frequently instructed,
knees together but feet firm and straight forward
in order to appear alert,
head bent just a little upward but to the side
so you are aware of your height over me,
so you feel that I might be looking to you with a question,
whether I have one to ask or not,
so you feel as though you are engaged,
as though I am one for your engagement.
My hands are folded together in my lap,
not knotted with fingers locked together,
or worrying the knuckles,
but still and waiting,
as though for instruction or calling.
There is a modicum of lipstick and blush,
of course,
so that I look like a flushed child,
not so much that you would see it for what it is
but just enough that you are aware I am performing for you.

I am sitting here
in a dress, prescribed,
which makes me more vulnerable to both the elements and men,
but I’ve been informed you prefer it,
for people with vulvas and breasts to follow feminine form,
so my skirt hints at a knee but flutters to cover it
so you can imagine calling me Mother,
or someone else calling me Mother,
so you can remember perhaps the comfort
of women’s knees in childhood
but still assume dominion over the access to which my uniform suggests:
your mother yours,
this skirt your knee,
this dress your domination.

I am sitting here,
my posture a display I’ve been encouraged to show you
so you are aware I know you are watching
my perch on this chair,
so you know that it is for you,
my elbow bent against its arm
but not leaning,
the affect of calm pretending to a power you find enticing.
If my knees should wander apart in a lost moment, I will remember:
pretend you are holding an aspirin between them.

I am sitting here,
having been instructed to sit for those who look,
for those who may later touch,
not for my own looking,
not for my rest,
not for my comfort,
not for aching feet,
not for leaning into the bend of the back,
not for taking leave,
not for breathing through a cornered panic,
not for hiding,
not for dreaming,
not for planning,
not for leaving.

I am sitting here,
held together by a uniform and instructions
I’ve been informed are powerful.
I am supposedly a cat, I am supposedly a lioness,
I am supposedly a small predator someone may feel the need to pet,
a small predator who nevertheless is hungry without game
and must bend to the hand that pets it,
if others deem it kind —
not for my own examination,
not for my leisure,
not for my pleasure,
not for belly’s growl,
not for feet set wide against your current,
not for courage,
not for the revelation of a satisfied peacefulness,
not for will,
not for affection,
not for love,
not for connection —
to bend for this chair in this place
so you can imagine me.