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Self Portrait with Other People’s Self Portraits

Self Portrait with Other People’s Self Portraits

I
Self Portrait, Minna Wright Citron

I spend ninety minutes searching
every possible combination of
“fashionable outfits chunky sneakers”
to figure out how to dress up
orthopedic shoes.

I curl my hair.
I put makeup on my whole face,
even the parts the mask will cover.
I want you to spend more time
looking at me than you do
at the paintings.

II
Self Portrait with Stylus, Max Beckman

Museum pace is a slow-motion amble,
a series of starts and stops.
City traffic, they say, is harder
on a car than highway driving.
Constant lights and lane changes wear
the brake pads, chafe away
lubricating oils.

When we were dating
we would spend all day here,
gallery by gallery,
kissing in the corners
when the docents weren’t looking.

III
Self Portrait, John Himmelfarb

The best exhibit has been taken down.
The current curatorial vision
does not include benches or chairs.
Too many people crowd
the blown glass display.
Not enough give proper attention
to the Chinese ceramics.

My favorite color is the iced lake
glaze of a Qing Dynasty
spittoon. Three hundred years ago,
someone spit, on purpose,
into the most beautiful thing
I have seen.

IV
Self Portrait as a Negative, Jim Dine

I can only last an hour.
I don’t cry in the car
on the way home.
There is music on the radio,
the sounds of traffic.
They come to me faintly
as if from behind
the closed door of a dark room.

What am I, if not a collection
of the things I love most?

What am I, when I can no longer
love them the way I want to?

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