Monday, December 24, 2012

The Palace: Palace Portrait

I believe this is the last poem in the series that was inspired directly by a specific piece of artwork, though the one about the train to the palace was inspired in a generic way by Giorgio de Chirico's work. Anyway, this came about because I had been looking at a painting of Fernando Botero called La familia del Presidente (which is a riff on Velazquez and his paintings of Spanish royalty).  It is owned by MoMA, but I am not sure it has been on display for some time.  Most likely, I saw it back during an exhibit they did on Latin American art.

The poem also apparently draws on this painting as well, though I am not sure when or where I would have seen it. But certainly the puffiness and general ridiculousness of the figurehead ruler should come through in the poem -- and ideally the rest of the series.


Thinking back, it seems likely I was also influenced a bit by the sculpted pieces of Marisol Escobar, though I can't find a specific piece I might have been drawing on.  Some of the details in the poem don't match up; some are clearly things I added, but a few do seem like a direct reference to another piece (not the Botero painting). Well, it must remain a mystery for the time being.

Palace Portrait
The imperial family is sitting for a painting.
The emperor wears a scarlet red sash
and all his medals.
They have to strap him to the chair
to keep him from tilting over.
He is upset that his uniform is tight.
It will be let out in the morning.
The old tailor was thrown out of the palace
from the tallest tower.
In the morning a new tailor will be selected
from a line that already stretches out for nearly a mile. 

The empress sits on his right.
She wears her weight in diamonds.
His mistress sits a little behind and to the left. 

The zipper on her black dress is made of silver. 
The pearl necklace, however, is not real.
His brother is a soldier,
in fact a seven-star general,
who poses holding a cannon ball.
His other brother is a cardinal
who breathes heavily through his nose.
He also has put on flesh,
and his red robes reach only halfway around. 

One of the boys is trying to ride the dog.
The others giggle.
The emperor’s oldest daughter scowls.
She wants to slap the brat,
but she has to hide the ring on her finger.
Her father would definitely kill her suitor,
no, kill all her suitors if he knew about it.
Last night never happened, she decides.
The painter picks up his brush.
“Quiet!” commands the emperor.
“Nobody move!”

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