Bill Afoot with Camera


Great artists paint self-portraits

wry as running sores. This photo

of me from a primal epoch

seems too accidental to portray

an actual human species. Upright

and lean as a cardboard cutout,

draped in that famous khaki suit

I bought for my insurance job,

I sport a necktie I still own:

brilliant plastic stripes of red,


yellow, blue cascading down

my flimsy chest to terminate

exactly at belt-line. Dangling

from my right hand, the Nikon

that, like the tie, I still own.

One leg bent as I stride with

glance characteristically downcast,

I’m crossing a barren heath

possibly in Devon or Cornwall

or in the Scottish Highlands where


stones whispered in brittle wind

and black peaks probed so deeply

I hardly slept for days. Note

my hair: a tough reddish-brown

mat of undergrowth nothing

but insult could penetrate.

The woman who took this photo

intended neither good nor harm

but lived in her own gray secrets

like a badger in its den.


This isn’t a self-portrait but

will serve as one until I learn

to paint as crudely as van Gogh,

my black-rimmed glasses heavy

as structural steel, and my face

narrow and pointed to conceal

the landscapes I tried to absorb

stone by stone to toughen me

against lovers too unstudied

and casual to account for me.


- William Doreski