Alarie Tennille, Picasso’s Sister

Alarie Tennille
Lola, 1899

No matter how carefully I dress,
he will change me. Everything
serves the art Pablo tells me.
I own nothing like this blouse,
ice blue (a plaid!). See how
he sweeps my skirt
into the tobacco background,
turns me into a floating torso.

Why can’t he hurry?
My neck throbs, and guitar music
wafts through the window. I want
to run to the plaza and see
who is playing. And oh the smell
of paella, calling to me
from the kitchen!

But here I sit. Still. Time drags
while Pablo’s brush dances.
In this house we all serve Pablo
the genius. Any way, at only 18,
how could he afford a real model?
At least he’ll make me beautiful
and seductive, not like a sister.
He’ll make other men want me.

He hides one hard-to-paint hand
under a gauzy waterfall of scarf,
lets loose a tendril of hair. He
takes me apart, pieces me together.

Author’s Comment: Before I could write “see the cat,” I wanted to be an artist. I spent many happy hours with famous paintings in the encyclopedia. Not surprisingly, I love to write ekphrastic poems. Over the past year I’ve put together a workshop, “Art-Felt Words,” on using art as an inspiration. I wrote this poem to test the tips I was passing along to my class. The more I gazed at Lola, the more I became her and wanted to let her speak. Having a genius brother myself, I understand the mix of pride and jealousy she may have felt.

Bio: Alarie Tennille serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place in Kansas City, Missouri. Her poetry collection, Running Counterclockwise, will be published by Kelsay Books in summer 2014; her chapbook, Spiraling into Control, is currently available at


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