"Self-Portrait, Masturbating"

"Self-Portrait, Masturbating"

"Self-Portrait, Masturbating"

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 22 2005 7:03 AM

"Self-Portrait, Masturbating"

—after Egon Schiele

Click here to listen to Steve Gehrke read this poem. Here he is again, distracted, lonely, pulling at the doll-strings of desire,

fingering his sheet music of moans,
whispers, his holy name, the whole choir

trying to sing the body from its cave,
to ignite the risen body into flames,


though the self, to flee its own decay,
must be beaten, must bloody the reins,

which is why he collapses on the spill-
cloth when he's done, his body half-exhumed

from the mirror, the painting like a meal
half-eaten on the canvas, sloppy, ungroomed,

his eyes deadened, pupils like swatted flies,
and the opened robe swanning from his sides.

Steve Gehrke's third book, Michelangelo's Seizure, was selected for the National Poetry Series and is forthcoming from University of Illinois Press. His second book, The Pyramids of Malpighi, won the Philip Levine Prize.