Sunday, March 13, 2011

Study #4: After Egon Schiele

Look at me, cock in my claws,
combcrimson from scratching.
Skinny arms kink round my back
but can’t kill the screeching itch.
The hand can’t scratch its bones.
I snap off the blackened arrows
but their featherless beaks stab
the crying katydids, their broken
feet catch in the scattered flesh.
I stretch the canvas on the rack.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Study #3: After Vincent van Gogh

God sank a mineshaft into me for a reason
I could not see in the coalmining district.
Coal dust ate the baby potatoes and beer.
When a man slammed into a woman, dust
climbed in their heads and formed a cloud.
I carried away what was mine, and burned
black into blue, red to rose, yellow to gold.
I burn a house and change it to a church.
I burn the fuse of flesh and my face bursts,
a wheel of fireworks, a vase of sunflowers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Study #2: After Rembrandt van Rijn

The guarantee is your willingness to make faces
at yourself, and to let the weather do likewise.
No plastic surgery. No wrinkle cream. No hair dye.
Laugh lines, you mock the sudden errors in the text.
The serious creases supertitle a slow crash.
This face is, you claim with a golden flourish, me.
Well, in that case, who am I? Who is this writing
about you, making you up as I paint, repaint,
affording you the best lines, begging a few laughs?
Who but this dour worrier is your dear guarantor?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Study #1: After Albrecht Dürer

Double eye. Double bind. Double blind.
The dark paints the dark in the dark.
I am the Christ. I am not the Christ.
I am not making claims, or so I claim.
So I watch my eyes, my eyes that work
in blue, in all that looks beautifully true.
When the doormaker throws the sun in
my face, and shows my eyes are brown,
you shan't take my word for it any more.
Word can stand down, leave by the door.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Seven Studies for a Self Portrait

Seven Studies for a Self Portrait, Jee Leong Koh's third book of poems, subjects the self to an increasingly complex series of personal investments and investigations. Ever-evolving, ever-improvisatory, the self appears first as a suite of seven ekphrastic poems, then as free verse profiles, riddles, sonnet sequences, and finally a divan of forty-nine ghazals. The discovery the book makes at the end is that the self sees itself best when it is not by itself.