I had my portrait painted . . (A poem)

Poem

He raised his brush like a swordsman en gard,
Leant forward and jabbed the canvas, once, twice,
Paint flung, splodges on the studio floor,
A stab, a lurch, a crooked line, elbows akimbo, ha ha, he said,
Then looked up at me once more.

You’re the first portrait I’ve ever done in landscape, he said,
And I admitted that the diet wasn’t working,
I’d already unbuttoned the top of my shirt in what I thought
A provocative manner, quoth he, as he danced and
Gyrated around the canvas,
Do what you like,
My last commission was a prize winning pig,

He came over and looked deep into my eyes,
Tried to gauge the exact colour he might use to depict them,
Their tone, their blend, the actual shade of them to reveal
The truth of me,
Are they Colombian coffee? Or midnight mallard?
He squeezed out on to his pallet from a tube
Marked poop brown.
Poop brown!

As he painted we chatted and I told him i’d bought a new
Sandwich toaster
And he told me he’d ordered some erectile dysfunction
Medication
But the delivery man had left it with his neighbour and
He was too embarrassed to go and get it
And I told him that the sandwich toaster
Also did paninis
And then we kind of ran out of things to discuss.

He came over with a protractor and
Measured the acute dimensions of my schnauzer.
Where did you get that protractor?, I asked.
In the road, he replied,
It fell out of the sky, perhaps from above.
Oh wow, I replied,
Heaven must be missing an angle.
He didn’t laugh.

These crisps, I told him, are revolting.
He replied, that’s the pot pourri,
Winter fruits and sandalwood.
Oh no, I replied, that means
I’ve left my beef flavoured Wotsits
In the wazza.

He danced around the easel slapping on paint,
Wavered and quavered as he layered his paint,
Like a boxer in the ring, a feint to the left, and paint,
A fling to the right, it’s a fight to the canvas
It’s a punch-up in paint,
A slapping in more ways than one!

Have you captured my best side?, I asked.
No, he replied, I’ve done you from the front.
Do you want me to pose naked?, I asked.
I don’t do abstracts, he replied.
I said, I’d like to paint a self portrait.
He said, you’d need to take a long hard look at yourself.
I tried it once,
It just wasn’t me.
Have you captured my earlobes?, I asked.
No, he replied, they just ran out of the door.

And with a hop and a skip he dabbed his last dab,
Stroked his brush home one last time,
Then stood back and declared his work done,
The latest in a sequence entitled
History’s Greatest Blunders,
With a flourish he turned the canvas around
For my perusal and, like a magician,
Said, ta-da! Voila!
Have a gander at this!

And I replied,
That’s not me, that’s Eammon Holmes.

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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