Al Maginnes

Self Portrait as Someone Else's Drawing

Because oil can be entered again, reworked, until

            the tree in the background becomes a young girl

                        or vanishes under dabbled blue, because landscape is able

            to explode or become a series of geometries, painters learn

to see the world more slowly. The restless coupling of angle


and light that casts its furious hold on photographers

            has no claim on them. Neither does the stone-crack

                        and burnt metal roar, the construction din

            that is one part of sculpture. Like philosophies, the model

is worried over, tested in an arcade of poses, especially


when the model is one’s own face, its planes caught in

            one gray mirror’s tilt, then another, each expression

                        forced to demonstrate its worth, its ability

            to slow onlookers, both the rapt and the simply curious.

Each brow-twitch and half-smile is a new consideration,


charcoal lines darkening pages quick as flame, smoke-traces

            trying to name what has already passed. In 1981,

                        the art school offered $7.50 an hour for nude models.

            I wasn’t that bold but would pose for friends if I could

remain clothed and hold a book, something to keep me still


while pen and brush did the task of dissolving me

            into contour and shadow. My fortune then was to see

                        past the truth and imperfection of any sketch

            and love a life able to hold still long enough for

one view of it to be rendered, then set aside.

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