Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Self-Portrait with Michelangelo

In the Star Theater of Rome, NY I paint ceilings
on the ladder to heaven where the air is thin.
After a few brushstrokes I sit on the top rung
to savor the figures of light and shadow on screen.

I’ll want to save them—but also send some to an island
where they can’t beguile or terrify. It’s a revelation
to come out of the theater so absorbed by their voices
and grimaces, these acts of creation, translucent as we are,

substantial and eternal, a state of mind the body
can’t kill off, as when Liza’s away on Guadeloupe,
muse to herself only, I conjure her sketching a waterfall,
eating cassava and christophene, hoarding perfumes

and scarves in Pointe-a-Pitre. She’s all flashes
and cloudbursts, there’s infinitesimal movement
between the frames so you can’t register
the changes. I call her Liza so you’re attached to her

and the name Liza: she has reddish-brown hair
and green eyes, smiles too much and loves to swim
too close to sharks. I don’t want her
swallowed up by life itself. Because she’s

a complete stranger I’m endlessly curious:
isn’t that love, knowing and not knowing,
framing a gesture to make her familiar?
I make everything up: her jasmine scent,

the delicate powder on the screen of her forehead,
but how can I paint the streets and their screens,
to come back to earth with the darkness it deserves,
where I live with my ordinary friends, the divine?  

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