Max Beckmann, Self Portrait in Tuxedo, 1927
"It is my fortune, or misfortune, that I can see neither all in black nor all in white. One vision alone would be much simpler and clearer, but then it would not exist.” Max Beckmann
Facing you, my audience,
with this impassive frontal stare,
I am twentieth century
Mittel Europa’s flower,
man of the hour, not poor
bare unaccommodated man, but
the thing itself, civilized product
of the culture of a continent.
Composed, in a stance of
command, I am the owner
of my face. My suit is armour,
the drawing room’s armour, salon’s,
the city’s. Promethean man,
I am owner of fire; the cigarette
in my hand tells you I command it.
There is nothing ambiguous about
these statements. They are declared
in the black and white blocks
of colour in my portrait, black tux,
white evening shirt, black tie,
the black and white patches of
shadow and light on my face,
hands, white dash of cigarette,
blocks of colour that define
my absolute authority,
Have I given you enough
reasons to question?
Sandra Kohler is a poet and teacher. Her third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 40 years.
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