Posted 29.02.12 in Writing
My name shall not be known.
I shall come into the studio,
As the moon swaying slow in the night-
Breeze ruffling skirt hems and loose leaves.
I will instruct the painter,
“Paint me as I am”.
Me: lone and ordinary,
Me with my inadequacies.
Even the bleakness enfolded
In my eyelids the humble bow
Of my brows the half-hearted
Tilt of my lips the hang of my eyes
And the mute drag of my gaze.
The pathetic way my curls recede like an
Unwitting sea, to bare my plainness.
The artist shall paint me like this.
My life is as soporific as those
My life is as dispensable as
The paint staining his fingertips,
His overalls—and as bothersome.
My life is as loveless and rageless
And seasonless and depthless and
As the white canvas he transcribes me on.
After I die,
My portrait shall stink down from
There is comfort in that thought.
I shall be there, nameless yet
A dictator with no status—
Compelling with the anonymity of my
Helen Zhou Huiwen wrote Portrait of an Unknown Man in response to Ross Sutherland’s ‘Imagine Lives’ challenge.
Ross Sutherland says: Another poem on the shifting relationship between art and truth, this time from the perspective of the portrait. This poem is just full of great description and comparison: “the moon swaying slow in the night-/breeze ruffling skirt hems and loose leaves.” and “the mute drag of my gaze”. The end is particularly powerful. “Stink down from someone’s wall” is the real standout line of the poem for me: the image of a dead picture, rotting away, is, er, awesome. I thought it was interesting that the poet chose not to make more of this line, but brevity ends up making it all the more unsettling. After all, this is a poem about the power of mystery to rule over us, and good poetry works the same way.
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