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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 31 | volume VI | March-April, 2003



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 31March-April, 2003

Self Portrait at Sunrise

p. 2
Jim McGarrah

Self Portrait at Sunrise
Where Were You When I Needed You, Jack Kerouac


Self Portrait at Sunrise

The woman at the café table across from mine scrubs
purple jelly from her boy’s face. A blush rises
in its place and stains his skin. Monet saw daybreak
as the time without time when he painted
Impression: Sunrise, skimming and dipping
the brush through morning fog, fixing the movement
of light between the sun and a small skiff, touching
the silence of substance in the heart of form. Me?
I can’t paint, not this morning or any other. Still,
when the boy’s tears begin, days arc from my mind, flow
over the fan-shaped, cobbled square, and fade
into the brown labyrinth of Sienna, Italy, each day circled
by orange minutes that fracture into blue hours.
I’ve spent my life borrowing time from corpses.
“A picaresque hero,” my friend Leslie says, “Who
lives as if his own breath is an unsolved mystery.”
She’s right. In this place, my self becomes undone
and leaves a myth like a hundred lire tip
for some waiter to sneer at. The boy sobs
as he lays his head on his mother’s shoulder,
and so does she, reminding me that things I’ve always
been certain of – a fish cooked in milk is poison,
Deena didn’t mean to swallow
my gum the first time we kissed,
love chatters like false teeth in cold water,
that shrapnel killed God, not Nietzsche,
thoughts as familiar and foreign
as the bullet fragments in my left leg –
don’t stop the myth from crying. It comforts me,
is taller, more handsome, and the language
it speaks is less scarred. Years ago it saved
Bobby Wolfe from stepping on a land mine, pulled
the rifle barrel away from Rick’s chin before he jerked
his own trigger, and never slit a Vietnamese throat
for refusing chu hoi in the jungle. The myth
has an appetite that knows no limits, never feels
alone in rooms full of people, writes poems that never
ask why a man dies and the one beside him lives
through the same explosion of the mortar shell
every day for ten thousand nine hundred and fifty days,
is legendary in its liaisons with single women
and forgetful of failed marriages. It prophecies,
walking into the wilderness barefoot and bone-tired
in search of mystic stones. It is an angel
who brings the message to deaf generations,
a dragon that breathes the fire of empty wine kegs
into my mouth, a lover who dances naked
into the wild Tuscan night and ends up quietly watching
a boy and his mother share grape jelly with their tears.

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