by William Dorski
Paul Cézanne’s self-portrait
highlights the cultured dome
of his head, a receding expanse
of flesh-yellow, blue and green
brushstrokes ascending toward
an imaginary widow’s peak.
All the depth resides in the beard,
a mink-rich muddle of blue-black
descending strokes, impasto
ripe enough to peel from the canvas
and apply wherever one wishes.
Buried in the furrows of paint
an umber smear of mouth regrets
its tiny pursed existence.
If only the beard could speak for
the whole man. But what of the nose,
a drooping series of orange,
yellow, and brick-red planes?
What of the one ear, a cavern
dank with sienna and daubed
with shadings of timid gray?
What of the brown garnet eyes?
Meanwhile the cravat continues
the pewter blue engendered
by certain strokes of beard and draws
the eye down between the lapels
to remind us this man has heart,
heart enough to portray himself
as a study in paint as well
as presence, Cezanne’s whole art
tending not toward music but
persistence in time and space.