This poem is spillover from the February 4, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from lb_lee. It also fills the "Sketch / Draw" square on my 2-1-14 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.
A late September rain chases people
into the undergraduate library,
damp students and faculty alike huddling
around the old radiators that clink like armor.
The raw, cold weather draws me out
to take care of people.
I hold the door open for a professor
with her arms full of big books.
I hand out spare change to students
coming up short at the coffee machine.
I direct folks to the warm, dry places
and then sit down at a corner table.
Dace comes into the library,
takes the seat across from me,
and drops his heavy backpack on the floor.
He rummages inside of it, coming up
with a sketchbook and charcoals.
"Art minor," Dace says with a fleeting smile
as I watch his slim brown fingers arrange
the charcoal pencils in meticulous order
from extra-soft to hard, then white,
the pressed sticks in 6B, 4B, 2B.
He squeezes the kneaded eraser
into a mushroom and sticks it to the table.
At first Dace sketches still life pictures --
a stack of books, a paperweight, a comb,
the looping cast iron coils of the radiator.
Then he draws two girls talking, and
the librarian behind the circulation desk.
Dace looks at me, as if for permission.
"Go ahead," I invite, because
I want to see what he'll do.
He flips to a clean page and lays down
faint lines with the hardest pencil,
then sketches over them in darker lines.
He slowly builds a portrait that fills the paper,
drawing me out of the blank white space.
When Dace finishes the picture,
he holds it up to show me how it looks --
and I know that, even though the body is wrong,
he's drawing me, not just Maisie or Maze.
I can see myself clearly in the body language:
the soft slump of my shoulders, pursed lips,
wrists crossed where I'm leaning on the table.
"What do you think?" Dace asks shyly,
and my voice catches on the reply --
because what I want to say
is, "I think you're wonderful,"
eyes so perceptive, hands so sensitive,
and that's a problem
because he's probably straight,
and if he is, he won't like my interest;
because even if he's gay,
he'll probably want more than romance --
and in any case he must think I'm a girl
because of the shape of the body
and so I need a moment to regroup.
"I think it's wonderful," I say instead,
because it is, soft shades rolling over
the tousled curls of my hair, the little lines
between my eyebrows where I always frown a bit,
delicate hatching in hard pencil to capture
the hills and valleys of my hands.
"Thanks," Dace says, ducking his head.
"I know it's not much, but -- you can have it."
"Really?" I say, startled by the generosity.
"Yeah," he says. "People don't usually notice me.
You're the only real friend I've got, here,
and it makes a big difference to me."
The word warms my chest.
I'll take that and be grateful for it.
"Okay, then," I say. "Thank you very much."
Dace detaches the portrait from the sketchbook,
then layers it between sheets of tissue in a folder
before passing it to me across the table.
I have to go then,
because it's almost time for class,
but even with the sketch tucked away
safely inside my bookbag, I feel like
Dace has my back.
* * *
Know how to cope with cold wet weather.
Charcoal is a popular art medium that comes in pencils, compressed sticks, and various other forms. It's often used with a kneaded eraser. Dace has a kit like this.
Sketching offers a quick way to capture scenes, although it can be done in more detail. Learn about drawing with charcoal, portrait sketching, and shading techniques.
College life is challenging enough for any student, moreso for those who are homosexual or asexual. Clement is homoromantic asexual. There are tips on making friends and dating for gay students, asexual dating, asexuals dating sexuals, and asexual relationships. Know how to understand asexual people.
Unrequited love is a common challenge in relationships. Understand how to deal with it and how to be a good friend. Clement has a lot on his plate already, without trying to explain it to somebody new. But he's still a good friend to Dace, even if his own feelings are turning into a bit of a mess.
Charcoal sketches benefit from protection so the lines don't smear.