From Your Hostess at the T & A Museum

by Kathleen Balma

If you will not tip me for my dance, tip me for daring to ask. Or if, having stared at me directly for the duration of a song or two, you still did not manage to see me, as you claim, then tip me for what you see now: the perfect circumference of twin areole, one torso a la Aphrodite statue, one triangle of cloth bundling The Origin of the World and pointing like an arrow to the masculine earth. Do you doubt that the artist tipped his model? Ah, but you’re right: there is that old understanding between painters and nudes. Tit for dab, so to speak. Similarly, artists and restaurateurs have sometimes exchanged a mouthful for an eye feast. (Dab for tidbit; slapdash for tiddlywink.) Tip me, then, in calories; offer me a slice of lime split wide over the edge of a beverage. Tip me for staring back so hard it puts even Olympia to shame and makes her chat noire slink ever closer to her overlooked and under-rendered black maid. Tip me, at least, for carrying so many geometrician’s tools: the circle, the triangle, the rectangular bills tucked beneath such finite and measurable bikini lines. Tip me for my burlesque, crescent-shaped ass. Tip me for what you don’t see: the abstract; the invisible; the squiggly outline of the model’s brain matter in silhouette; the negative space plastered between fleshy objects like some happy vacuum, giving form to the nothingness between us.