While in the hospital recovering from victory fatigue,
I began drawing these portraits.
I think it was important for my recovery
for me to understand
that everyone in the portraits was me.
But also the portraits were portraits of other people,
not to be confused with their meritocracies.
I drew the portraits and then left them
hanging on my hospital wall
like mud thrown at a drug store.
I. Sketches Of Personnel
Personnel are drawn as they believe
themselves to be.
Personnel are archetypes of the living mind,
smaller versions of which are set to flesh
and walk about destroying steeples.
Personnel often live in winter.
They are stunned and blush,
gradually, towards a reckoning.
Once in a while personnel come to grief.
II. Portrait Of Equanimity
This portrait I showed to the Commander of Scorn
as he vacationed on the shores of a lake made of
prisoner's spit and whiskey.
He looked at it for a moment and then turned over,
letting the full moon strike his backside, the pits
of his self-inflicted love-scratches filling with glow.
Later, as he tied a necklace of smoke and rose
around my ankles, he whispered that the portrait
didn't charm him. I can still feel
the wind from his expectations blistering my internal year.
III. Portrait Of The Commander Of Munitions
Hate is shaping a bullet between my breasts.
I know it's not done yet because I can feel its candy.
Remorse, rage, grief, inappropriate laughter, hiccoughs—
already five bullets have formed on their own,
and now wait for the sixth.
When the chamber between my breasts is fully loaded
then the god that dwells in my throat will pull back
its teeth, in that way arming the firing pin,
and the flower will erupt exactly five times.
Five times, not six, because one of the bullets is a dud—
I'm not sure which one, though I don't think it will be grief.
But what will it matter?
By then my death will already be flying
down the long hallway of the afternoon.
IV. Portrait Of The Commander Of The Air Force
I know that I'm obsessed with my bird-self.
But who knows better than me what it feels like
to fly into and out of the mouth of caves?
This I know also, that I am a gentleman
suddenly shy after landing, happiest to be
launching along the rim of the dropped hat
with birthday speed, thinking thoughts
that bind one to one's romance.
People don't bother trying to steer me anymore,
because I'm so much more horrible at it than they,
flying mystified into and out of death,
all covered with death, the bone's rainbow.
You want to know why I fly?
Because it's a great way to stay young—
holding one's breath while strapping on angels.
V. Portrait Of The Father Of Modern Warfare
I have three children: Hate, Ignorance and Desire.
Hate I caught last night, snickering in the brain,
lamps smashed from drinking history.
Ignorance has been keeping company with experts,
coming home late, nose bleeding, gut full of reform,
teeth rotted from sick-room talk.
But Desire has had one too many soldiers.
See, her arm is on fire.
And now there's a fourth child on the way.
I know, because I can feel it growing
there where my forest hardens with church.
I can sense the baby out there in the cobalt
being conceived, right where the road turns
around and comes back, all its ditches full.
VI. Portrait Of A Deserter
Where I would have gone on before,
now I've grown polite.
Where I would have kept aching until all the dust
from my obliteration came to rest,
now I've accepted the dark foreshadowing of success.
Before, where I would have emptied the bed of five
of its six chambers, thus insuring the accidental shooting death,
now I only want an occasional drug made of toxins.
There isn't enough war in desire nor is there enough art
in humility to execute my face from the decline
of illegitimate self in the snow.
There isn't enough wall in this old hotel
to absorb the arrival of one more brutally opened door.
Before, I would have been angry,
and I would have been right
Now, I'm content to stain what's left of the ocean
with water from my miserable, left eye.
VII. Portrait Of Looters
On the late-night news I heard
about people looting.
There were gangs of looters
coming out in the dark, tipping things over,
smashing, reaching in.
All this talk of looting affected me,
making it hard for me to imagine
my eventual marriage.
I was very angry with the looters,
and finally got one on the phone.
Why, I asked him bitterly,
don't you ever steal anything from me?
For my last portrait I thought I might draw a picture of myself saying goodbye. But then, from all that I've experienced, I realized that it's never really over. Therefore I drew a picture of myself saying hello.
Solicitations and grief
from the pharaohs who stole our horses.
Hi, in other words, from my small hands.
Hello out there, without in anyway
offering to help.
The wind has died.
Au revoir, also, from the soldiers
caught last night.
After today, we'll have run out of swans.
After today, who'll remember who called
to say they were coming but never arrived?
Hello from the water used to put out the fire.
Hello to the rat's breast impaled on a rake.
Hello, ants, here's a bucket of smote.
Now go, wash your hair in the sea.
Hello, I say, but then stop,
for I see that you're with a priest.