self-portrait

Samantha Berstler

2008 Third Prize

I.
she can’t write poetry.
the old ways are gone, she says and
wishes the snowflakes might scepter
our pizza box on the porch. her warm
fingers try to eucharist her lips, three slender holy candles
upon the cold apple. there isn’t any poetry
anywhere, she says, staring wistfully at the
kid on the street with dyed hair, walking
in plumes of smoke, plumes of smoke
like the silver swirls
around a statue of a vishnu. no poetry
anywhere.

II.
she can’t write poetry. she is a collector
like the man who hoards paintings in an attic
or the magpie with a nest of bluebird feathers
and silver thumbnails. she glues together fragments,
magazine letters pasted on a canvas sheet, lifts up
two fingers coated in the smells and textures
of kindergarten. she
weaves pieces of yarn together found on the
artists’ floor and calls it
high fusion.

III.
she can’t write poetry. she can’t revel,
can’t get drunk on the rains that corrode statues
and kill fish. she can only embellish graffiti like
some hindu god, sculpt images out of
modern art, and wonder, god, what’s with this world?
she is the don quixote
with the pen brandished at the boy’s tattoo
in science class, where she sits and tries to flourish away
in words, formed perfect and complete
until she tried to carve them out
with her ink-blotched
fingers.

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