Carrie Mae Weems, Self-Portrait
The model in the photograph you hold poses in the foreground of an alcove lit with mahogany warmth. She holds a white mirror to one side with her right hand as she brushes her hair back from her face. Her hair is coifed in the style favored by Josephine Baker who danced with Frida Kahlo in the night clubs of the capitals of Europe. Whose long legs swept her along the narrow sidewalks of medieval cities, her pet cheetah tugging at the leash. The blouse and skirt in the photograph were fashioned from a fabric bearing prints of mankind's greatest aspirations. Sequoyah's Cherokee syllabary. The Magna Carta. Martin Luther King's Dream. You want to inspect the lyrics of This Land Is Your Land, but the print is too small. Instead, you admire the way the preambles and psalms resemble a mosaic of jewels each time you step aside or tilt your head at a different angle. The way the outfit flows along the contours of the model’'s body as if the cloth was woven from cascades. She looks into the white mirror, the photographer herself, with persevering beauty. You will never see the mole or the blemishes she imagines. But you will remember the light surging from her dress. And the Rosetta Stone of her life story, which you have just discovered.
This prose poem was written after Carrie Mae Weems' I Looked and Looked but Failed to See What so Terrified You (Louisiana Project series), 2003. Click here to view that photograph.
Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who worked for 33 years in the schools of northeast Indiana. He lives in Muncie, Indiana where he is looking for a dog to adopt. Over the course of his 73 years, Brockley has companioned five German shepherds and a shih tzu. Since retiring, he has been submitting poems to small market and literary journals. His most recent poems have appeared in Shorts Magazine and Syncopation Literary Journal. Poems are forthcoming in Gargoyle.
The Ekphrastic Review
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