canvas and mirror

self-portrait with cats, with purple, with stacks
      of half-read books adorning my desk, with coffee,

                  with mug, with yesterday's mug. self-portrait
            with guilt, with fear, with thick-banded silver ring,

      painted toes, and no make-up on my face. self-
            portrait with twins, with giggles, with sister at

                  last, with epistrophy, with crepescule with nellie,
with my favorite things. self-portrait with hard

head, with soft light, with raised eyebrow. self-
      portrait voo-doo, self-portrait hijinks, self-portrait

                  surprise. self-portrait with patience, with political
            protest, with poetry, with papers to grade. self-

      portrait as thaumaturgic lass, self-portrait as luna
            larva, self-portrait as your mama. self-portrait

                  with self at sixteen. self-portrait with shit-kickers,
with hip-huggers, with crimson silk, with wild

mushroom risotto and a glass of malbec. self-
      portrait with partial disclosure, self-portrait with

                  half-truths, self-portrait with demi-monde. self-
            portrait with a night at the beach, with a view

      overlooking the lake, with cancelled flight. self-
            portrait with a real future, with a slight chance of

                  sours, with glasses, with cream, with fries, with
a way with words, with a propositional phrase.

More by Evie Shockley

the fare-well letters [excerpt]

dear ink jet,


          black fast. greasy lightning.
won't smear. won't rub off.
          defense: a visual screen: ask
an octopus (bioaquadooloop).
          footprints faster than a speed-
ing bully, tracking dirt all
          over the page. make every
word count. one. two. iamb.
          octoroon. half-breed. mutt.
mulatto. why are there so few
          hybrids on the road? because
they can't reproduce. trochee
          choking okay mocha. ebony,
by contrast, says so much.

playing with fire

something is always burning, passion,
                        pride, envy, desire, the internal organs 
        going chokingly up in smoke, as some-
                thing outside the body exerts a pull
that drags us like a match across sand-
                        paper. something is always burning, 
        london, paris, detroit, l.a., the neighbor-

                hoods no one outside seems to see until 
they're backlit by flames, when the out-
                        siders, peering through dense, acrid,
        black-&-orange-rimmed fumes, mis-
                take their dark reflections for savages 
altogether alien. how hot are the london
                        riots for west end pearls? how hot in tot-

        tenham? if one bead of cream rolls down 
        one precious neck, heads will roll in brix-
ton: the science of sociology. the mark
                        duggan principle of cause and effect: 
        under conditions of sufficient pressure—
                measured roughly in years + lead ÷ £s—
black blood is highly combustible.

effect shrewd preferences

the screed seen here blesses
        the sweet, the meek, the gentle,
                the serene. let eyes ensembled
peep the news sheets: ere
        december descends, we'll elect
                the next pres, reps, etc. when
we welter, cede the wheel,
        we let greed-questers enter
                (well-dressed jerks!). they send
themselves the green we need,
        help themselves fleece the sheep
                we be. we're the perfect prey!
the press sleeps the sleep we
        deserve, then bleeds berserk
                text between celeb tweets. we'd
best reject the mess, steer
        the fleet between these repellent
                hells. veer! swerve! reverse!
here's the pledge: we'll expect
        better press. elect the decent
                men, the keenest shes. revere
sense. never feed spleen lest
        we weep endless weeks, red-
                eyed, bereft. let excellent pens
represent the experts' ken, help
        peeps remember key elements.
                let's select well. we'll revel yet.

Related Poems

Self-Portrait as Miranda

My story begins at sea, in the bitter liquid.
If not, it would begin in Florida, along I-95
in the circular drive of a circular, lime-green motel.
But I have selected the sea, and you must

trust me on this. Truly terrible stories
begin in navigational error, a slight misreading
of the sight that sets the crew in a maelstrom.
Perhaps in another story it would be a man

standing at the door, surprised that he’s knocked,
that you have, in turn, answered. He wishes
now that he had lingered in that drive, paused
before resuming the course toward your door.

As the crew, in desperate but unspoken straits,
wishes belatedly for a drag on the anchor.
Frequently, we are thus carried along.
Frequently, de profundis, we struggle ashore

to find ourselves, if not stranded, then beached.
We are inclined to be grateful for land.
Survivors of shipwreck cast two shadows:
the outline of interrupted light, and an aura, thirst

to drown again. Perhaps, in the unwritten story,
the man at the door looks thirsty. You sense
he has come to repair himself at the dry dock
of your flesh. There is nothing else to do.

Your home is an island of white sand
and he wades in from the shoals of the walkway
asking for fresh water. So you find him berth.
This much Miranda herself could explain:

how Ferdinand come shimmering from the sea
appeared no less a rescuer than she,
with his handful of kelp and the pretty words
of a man desperate for sanctuary.

Ferdinand missed that she was shipwrecked
too. Miranda had the shadowy thirst.
You know the rest of the story.
They’re happy. Then it ends in the bitter sea.