Considering Elaine de Kooning’s Self-Portrait #3

/ /

Everything was a matter of tension.
……………………….. – Elaine de Kooning

Is she the small thunder
on either side of my house
on a smock-blue day
as neighbors roll
trash bins to the curb,
rid themselves of all
they don’t want or need?
Or the half-drawn valentine
on the back of the chair
where she sits
in this painting?
Or even the reflection
of a chickadee—a tiny tornado
at the glass window
of my front room?
As I move towards her and away
I am afraid she is
the echo of Willem,
a cigarette normally snug between
her fore and middle finger
like a coiled seraph: not there.
An early self-portrait.
A coffee cup and ashtray
clean and as empty as her
sketch book. So many hard
angles: the tapestry, the photos,
the sharp cut of her hair,
the ghostly pages she reveals.
What is left out
of a portrait is as important
as what is put in.