How should I pose before I paint with words
my portrait? Should I take my glasses off
so that my adjectives can capture the youthful
blue and twinkle I am told is there--although
without them I can’t read a word or see
without a squint across the room?
Or, should I keep them on--wire-rimmed
and scholarly as if I’m wise
from all the history I’ve studied?
Should I smile with subtle lips like Mona Lisa
as if amused by what I’m doing here
sitting for this portrait of myself
or should I beam, holding back a laugh
at what a foolish man I am
to think I can show myself in a phrase or two
so that the reader knows the lines
around my eyes have come from laughter and delight--
although the words, “I laugh so that I do not weep,”
comes to my mind as I think about my pose.
And should I comb my hair and trim my beard
or leave it be, somewhat unkempt
like Einstein’s hair indifferent to appearance
as I think about important things?
And that nose--that Jewish nose--
the one I inherited from someone long ago
who gave it to my father who passed it on to me.
Should I leave the little lump on one side
where my deviated septum blocks one nostril,
or should I let that detail go as insignificant?
It’s character I want to paint in words
that will swirl and sing through Time
where someone, somewhere will read this portrait
and nod at what’s revealed, as if the pose
I choose was really me
or who I want the world to see?
And what is really strange about gazing
at myself sitting here at dawn
scratching out this portrait of myself
is thinking about Van Gogh without his ear
posing for himself and how he never sold
a painting while he lived yet everyday
he took his easel out into a field to paint
a world that made him dizzy.
It’s funny how I think of him
as I sit here by my stove wondering
what he thought as he held his brush
and looked into his eyes.