1 They say that instead of a brush 2 he used a knife on me



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1 They say that instead of a brush

2 he used a knife on me –

3 a savage of geometry.

4 But I say, look again,

5 this is the closest

6 anyone has got to the pain.


7 Green knows me –

8 Not the green of new shoots

9 but the ghastly green of gangrene.

10 Yellow knows me –

11 Not the cheery yellow of the sun

12 but the sickly hues

13 of this war’s putrefaction.

14 Blue knows me –

15 Not the boundless blues of sky or sea

16 but the blues of the singer’s

17 deepest sorrow.
18 Mother Dolorosa

19 this grief has got to me.

20 Under the poise of my red hat

21 I hear, as if from a great

22 distance,

23 my own stifled scream.


1 Even my hat mocks me
2 laughing
3 on the inside of my grief –
4 My twisted mouth
5 and gnashing teeth,
6 my fingers fat and clumsy
7 as if they were still wearing
8 those gloves –
9 the bloodstained ones you keep.
10 What has happened
11 to the pupils
12 of my eyes, Picasso?
13 Why do I deserve
14 such deformity?
15 What am I now
16 if not a cross between
17 a clown and a broken
18 piece of crockery?

1 But I am famous.


2 People recognise me
3 despite my fractures.
4 I'm no Mona Lisa
5 (how I'd like to wipe
6 the smugness from her face
7 that still captivates.)
8 Doesn't she know that art, great art,
9 needn't be an oil-painting?
10 I am a magnet
11 not devoid of beauty.
12 I am an icon
13 of twentieth-century grief.
14 A symbol
15 of compositional possibilities
16 My tears are tears of happiness –
17 big rolling diamonds.
1 Lies tricks transformations

2 and mine has been completed –

3 from lioness to goddess

4 from goddess to doormat

5 from eagle, raven, swan

6 into a silly duck

7 flapping about all day

8 in case he calls.

9 In case he needs me to sit still.

10 Whereas before I could

11 have gone off like a cat

12 hearing folk say

13 with an indulgent laugh:

14 There goes Dora Maar

15 wearing her camera

16 like a medallion against her heart.

1 Everything he touches

2 with his Midas-hands

3 turns, of course, into a fortune.
4 One still-life can buy a house.

5 A bicycle saddle

6 with handle inverted –

7 becomes the head of a bull.

8 A freshly thrown vase

9 its neck stretched, broken –

10 becomes a bird, startled into being.
11 Each time my own face cracks

12 he rushes to pick up the pieces

13 with pencil and pad –

14 storing each fragment

15 each briny drop already pearled

16 for some future need –


17 ‘Women,’ he sighs

18 ‘they’re suffering machines.’


1 Still, if anyone had told me,

2 that one day I’d be sold by Sotheby

3 that painting of me and my cat

4 going, going, going –

5 my regal posture

6 my surrealist hat –

7 ninety-five million under the hammer!

8 Never in my wildest imaginations

9 Never in my heart’s rebellion

10 from before or beyond the grave

11 (Van Gogh rolling in his)

12 would I have believed that.

1 Conquistador

2 of the flesh

3 my stallion

4 my bull

5 my Cortez

6 invade me now

7 with the sperm

8 of your colours

9 let your blue periods

10 and pink periods

11 find my deepest red –

12 Conquistador

13 of the flesh

14 I am your

15 New World

16 your Malinche

17 assisting you in

18 your conquest


1 Whispers of a new mistress.

2 Surreptitious glances.

3 The leaky fuselage

4 of my tears behind dark glasses –


5 How dare they pity me

6 an immortal

7 in the halls of painting?
1 Dear heart

2 save face

3 when they come

4 with their impudent stares

5 and crocodile condolences

6 as if I wasn’t forewarned by you

7 that it would end like this
8 Dear face

9 save heart

10 let me hear

11 myself say

12 as if casting a flippant dart:

13 ‘Heavens all I’ve lost is a man

14 with an ego as big as a barn.’
1 Children, they’re the worst -

2 Their candid eyes and carrying voices:

3 ‘Mummy the lady in the red hat is crying.

4 Is it because of the war

5 or has someone broken her heart?

6 The lady in the red hat is crying.

7 Her face is like a fan, Mummy.

8 But you can still see through her tears.’


9 Children, they’re worst

10 touching the nerve of best artwork.


1 And yet I praise the swaddled-gifts

2 that mothers bring –


3 Month after month

4 I’ve spread the red womb-carpet


5 Month after month

6 the little one I crave


7 Disappears like a flood

8 into the forest


9 Prefers to stay hidden among branches

10 than come into the limelight of living.

1 Who are these people

2 with their gowns and lights

3 leaning towards me

4 with their whispering insights?


5 The white-clad ones

6 The Minotaur

7 wheeling me down

8 a labyrinth of wards


9 No Ariadne-thread

10 No pebble of Hansel


11 O maelstrom of guitars

12 see how they dance?

13 Jesus you are my star

14 I climb upon your branch

15 to hide my memory

16 from the thorns of this therapy


17 Jesus, make no mistake

18 they’re here to cure me –

19 Don’t let them take it

20 away from me –


21 My psychic pain

22 all my sympathetic little aches.


1 Bed of roses

2 Bed of nails

3 Bed on which

4 I’ve levitated like a fakir


5 Bed of hopes

6 Bed of fears

7 Bed that’s seen me through

8 My worst nightmares


9 Bed of rock

10 Bed of feather

11 Bed on which I’ve finally

12 Put two and two together


13 Bed my dark room

14 And my light –

15 So we make you

16 So we lie on you


1 Picasso, I want my face back
2 the unbroken photography of it
3 Once I lived to be stroked
4 by the fingers of your brushes
5 Now I see I was more an accomplice
6 to my own unrooting
7 Watching the pundits gaze
8 open-mouthed at your masterpieces
9 While I hovered like a battered muse
10 my private grief made public
1 Dora, Theodora, be reasonable, if it weren't for Picasso
2 you'd hardly be remembered at all.
3 He's given you an unbelievable shelf-life.
4 Yes, but who will remember the fruits of my own life?
5 I am no moth flitting around his wick.
6 He might be a genius but he's also a prick –
7 Medusa, Cleopatra, help me find my inner bitch,
8 wasn't I christened Henriette Theodora Markovitch?
9 Picasso, I want my face back
10 the unbroken geography of it.
1 My camera my one-eye

2 taking what you like

3 stalking like Polyphemus

4 the shadows and the light –

5 that man’s head emerging

6 from a man-hole in the road –

7 Salomé’s surrealist gift.

8 A blind man sitting

9 with his cane in the sun –

10 his remming eyes

11 dreaming their inner visions.

12 My camera my third eye

13 my Guernica witness –

14 turn my negatives into positives.

15 my floating fetuses into life.
1 I am no longer there

2 trapped in that chrysalis

3 that distorts

4 my cherished mirror images


5 I am no longer framed

6 imprisoned in that cocoon

7 that winds up

8 the silk of my spirit


9 I’m beginning to feel

10 Dora Maar is beginning to feel –



11 Her new incipient

12 still imperfect wings.


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