The Fieldstone Review

Self-Portrait

(Toulouse-Lautrec)

I disappear into the streets with my wide behind
and a nose like a potato. Only in Montmarte's
dance halls and dens does no one notice
a dwarf with drooling lips and a lisp.
Walking these rat-infested streets all night,
night after night, I drag my friends from the cabarets
to the circus to the cafés, move from light to light,
port to brandy, gin to vermouth.
It's in the brothels that I feel at home.
8 Rue d'Amboise. 24 Rue des Moulins.
The égout des spermes. Outcasts like myself.
Black-stockinged legs. Mouths red as a drip of blood.
Ingres believed the only way to possess a woman
was to paint her, and I want to paint every woman I see.
Look at them: naked and stretched out like animals.
They admit me everywhere and at any moment.
I watch them dressing or touching or taking a bath.
I'm a coffee pot with a big spout.
I’m digging my grave with my cock.
Degas thinks my work stinks of the pox,
but I draw what I see: a woman making a bed
or brushing her hair, someone talking in the salon,
playing cards, humming a song.
When they lie down together, you've never seen
such tenderness. They're like two birds
burying themselves in each others' feathers.
No one will ever love me like that.