Drawing Myself by Alfred Corn

Originally published in the Winter 2014 issue of The Literati Quarterly.

A blank surround, an empty snowfield.
Because I’m in it, but don’t appear,
What’s needed’s a charcoal pencil.
You want to draw, you’ve got to stand.
So better begin with one foot, then
The other- I mean shoes, not feet.
Shoes imply them, concealed, but understood.

Next come legs (or rather jeans)
With faded ovals at the knee.
Denim stretched tight over the thighs
But wrinkled, bunched, around the crotch.
Two views, front and back. Rounded
Volumes are fun to render, and the crease.
So could we say the lower half is done?

The upper will require more thought.
OK to make the waist slimmer, the chest
Larger than life? Maybe draw one arm
Akimbo, hand on hip. The other’s
Doing the drawing, understand,
And can’t be drawn, not yet. But shoulders
In their checkered shirt can be roughed in.

Neck done, a shiver overtakes me.
Good God, the subject looks beheaded!
Quick, attach a face right now, wrap
It around a cranium. It should look
Something like a likeness. No make-up,
Just a thin black line around the eyes
To lend the gaze a soulfulness.

All right, I will cave in and omit
Some frown lines and invent a warm
Few that read as thoughtful. There.
Anyone care to know how vain
You are? Depict yourself. Even make
You ugly, too, if drawn that way. It
Would still be vain. It would still be yours.


Alfred Corn has published ten books of poems, including Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992 (1999). He has also published a novel, Part of His Story, a study of prosody The Poem’s Heartbeat, and two collections of critical essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007. Corn was awarded the 1982 Levinson Prize by Poetry Magazine. He has also received an Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1983 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986 and in 1987, he was awarded a Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets.