Portrait of an Unknown Man

by Helen Zhou

My name shall not be known.
I shall come into the studio,
As the moon swaying slow in the night-
Breeze ruffling skirt hems and loose leaves.
I will instruct the painter,
“Paint me as I am”.
Me: lone and ordinary,
Me with my inadequacies.
Even the bleakness enfolded
In my eyelids the humble bow
Of my brows the half-hearted
Tilt of my lips the hang of my eyes
And the mute drag of my gaze.
The pathetic way my curls recede like an
Unwitting sea, to bare my plainness.
The artist shall paint me like this.

My life is as soporific as those
My life is as dispensable as
The paint staining his fingertips,
His overalls—and as bothersome.
My life is as loveless and rageless
And seasonless and depthless and
As the white canvas he transcribes me on. 

After I die,
My portrait shall stink down from
Someone’s wall;
There is comfort in that thought.
I shall be there, nameless yet
Powerful, powerful,
A dictator with no status—
Compelling with the anonymity of my
Deficient gaze.