Self Portrait: Assemblage

By Jeanine Stevens

               Man Ray, Paris 1916


Only torso from the waist up: top end

an ironing board, mid-section, cello.

Metal bells for eyes, door buzzer—navel.

Touch, press. Sound the alarm?


You want to soothe him.

Everything says “touch me,”

yet more like a contraption than man.

No mouth, nose, or breath.

No hands to reach, trace the world

               no feet for escape.


Skin would be a logical addition, a hint to make sense,

but only a black shroud, white veil,

bib tucked below his chin,

childlike handprint

on chest,

               over heart.


So like Harlow’s iron surrogate, googly eyes,

brief cling to suckle, then return

to cradleboard and terrycloth mother.


We can’t see his back, don’t know extent

of scar or faulty wiring, another’s burnt ends.


How much we need to explain ourselves.

Even a dimple might help!




Jeanine Stevens is the author of Inheritor (Future Cycle Press), and Sailing on Milkweed (Cherry Grove Collections). Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt (selected by Phil Levine), The Stockton Arts Commission Award, The Ekphrasis Prize and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio National Poetry Award. Brief Immensity, recently won the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award. Poems have appeared in The Curator, Evansville Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Chiron Review, Forge, Pearl, Stoneboat, Connecticut River Review, Provincetown Magazine and Rosebud. Jeanine recently received her sixth Pushcart Nomination. She studied poetry at U.C. Davis and California State University, Sacramento.

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