Every Portrait Is a Self-Portrait
“I’m not just interested in fascinating faces or trees. I want to bore in deeper.”
— Jamie Wyeth
I. Portrait of Andrew Wyeth, 1969
All fathers are oak trees to their sons, massive and domineering,
casting a broad shadow across whatever field they claim.
Though their roots run shallow, they run wide, rippling out and out
from their thick trunk in search of water to feed their leaves
and drink the world dry. It only takes a tiny injury—a broken branch,
a redheaded woodpecker’s jackhammer bill, a passing bear claw
scratch—to seed a burl that will keep expanding until the tree dies.
What wound did you inflict to make the burl of your father’s face grow?
II. Pumpkin Head (Self-Portrait), 1972
Pumpkins grow best atop
the ground rather than below,
unburdened by the weight
of earth and the tangle of roots.
Every autumn we cut them
and gut them and stuff them
with candles until they smile
brightly in spite of their own
defilement. The Jack-O-Lantern
that hides your own face stares
at the world with empty eyes
and a jagged, maniacal smile.
You are the sole sign of life
rising out of this fallow winter
field. Unable to overcome
the cold, your pumpkin head
hangs in a blank canvas sky
like a wan and sallow sun.
Kip Knott’s most recent full-length collection of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is available from Kelsay Books. A new full-length poetry collection, Hinterlands, will be available later this year from Versification Publishing House. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Barren, Drunk Monkeys, Harpy Hybrid Review, HAD, La Piccioletta Barca, (mac)ro(mic), and New World Writing. More of his writing may be accessed at kipknott.com.