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Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man)

Austin Allen

        Gustave Courbet, c. 1845

Consider my face.
Is it handsomely desperate
or just desperately handsome?
Is each clutched hair in place?

Notice the crimson flush
upon each cheek.
Is that a fever’s rose
or rouge, do you suppose?
If rouge, would my mystique
be heightened? Would you blush?

With whom do I share
such elegant despair?

Such arrogance
as I must have to boast,
“I am the most
arrogant man in France”:

is it not also yours?
Who but yourself, indulging,
summons the force
that draws me in, distorts
my eyes, my ego bulging
toward the terror’s source—

which (it could not be clearer)
is a mirror?