Camille Claudel Declines to Join the Academy

Poem by Rebecca Foust

It does not matter; it is meet that I sculpt the hands, the feet. 

His name is August, mine mere moon.

For him the temple, the arching brow; I have no need 

to enter now. I have no need to enter now. 

 

I steal out at night to steal my clay, and in the morning 

smash my art. Thus do I intuit heart. 

And understand the body as a kit of parts, itself part kit. 

I want to forfeit world for art; 

 

how else could I learn to value it? Besides, I own what 

he owns: all, and none of it.

It tastes of milk and ash, this clay. I love its wash and smear, 

dawn swooned in day, in dusk. 

 

I drink my wine, eat my dry crust. I make a tiny world of dirt, 

and of my world, a heap of dust. 

I’m from form: cast and mold; I’m from a wound more deep. 

A swallow shapes her nest 

 

in mud with her own breast. His eyes, done well, are blank 

as sky, his lips a lapse in faith. 

His chin, a precipice above a day I fell through and in. 

I complicate the simple shape, 

 

imbricate the sepaled heart. Then break all of it, return dirt 

to dirt, quench light with dust. 

The body is but a kit of parts, itself part kit; faith does not 

enter into it. I am the hands, the feet, the clay, 

 

the cult of parts that in the end betray the whole. 

World, break. Dust, blow. 

I have no need to enter now.  

I have no need to enter now.