Home  |  Browse  |  Search  |  Introduction  |  Chronology 
   
nzepc | Holloway Press       
            Previous | Next  
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A BACHELOR
Pickwick, was it, or Shakespeare,
that name which escapes with
a body long since made off,
made over?
Something literary, anyway;
at that, in retrospect, he looks
like the Droeshout engraving.
He discouraged talk among customers.
He was gingery. He was built slight.
While he cut hair, he whistled,
tuneless hissing left or right of your ear
scissoring patterns of songs without words
which, after you were bayrummed or brilliantined,
he swept under the sink.
Trimmed, man and boy, to meet any wind
you shuffled out where trams were,
where dogs fought, was a blacksmith’s forge,
and a Cantonese grocer called Hang On.
He retired to assume
his important life that was other
than dealing short with back and sides.
Into his back room. He came from it,
a bit player entering on cue
descending a couple of steps, having
news for those downstage or, if not news,
then means to unknot their problem,
an incidental machine, a music.
He went off, to solve his own.
He painted, primitive, in oils.
Of these, his shop was full.
Medieval young people on black-and-white
chessboard pavings, their eyes elongated,
sorrowed, frustrated variously: at balconies,
in cloisters, passionate liking was balked.
Extraordinary animals behaved badly
to travellers in hailing distance or bowshot
from stiffly geometrical towers.
Age, where represented, was not wise,
only fearful. No one was ever heard
to remark on, ask about, his paintings.
Nor did he mention them.
Among ourselves, we did not comment.

                                                                  5. 7. 71
Editor's note
Portrait of the artist as a Bachelor : first published in Dwarf with a Billiard Cue; Droeshout: famous engraving of Shakespeare used as frontispiece to First Folio  (1623)
Previous | Next