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Self Portrait in Poetry

Sitting and trying to make a self portrait in words



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.

 

 

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