Back to Issue Three.

Before They Paint Me



I will wrap the blank canvas around my body 
and wear it underneath my clothes. 
I will wear the canvas slip everywhere I go – 
in the subway, shading in the threads 
with the lampblack ink dirt 
of the scent of the seats. 

I will breathe the wisteria and acorn, 
the bronze and putty from my pores 
with every flushed cheek I meet 
on the sidewalk, with each steel-gray 
complexion of statues in Manchester Park. 

I will feed on the silver, 
gun smoke, plums, and poppies 
of history books and romance novels. 
My body will sketch the book 
of the music café, 
shading the bleached clichés with bottle green strokes, 
painting each acoustic drift of the guitar 
into the lines of my body. 

I will prove to be a great Surrealist, cubist, impressionist, 
catching flecks of yesterday’s news 
and posting them on the canvas. 
All the colors will swarm, hungry. 

When they call for my life portrait, 
I will demand the painting 
go directly on the wall, 
for them not to bother with the hanging. 
When they refuse, I will strip 
to unveil the oiled and pastelled, 
unwrap the canvas and plaster 
it on the wall, disappearing 
the black and white, 
the muddy carpet and uncolored faces. 

They will tap their brushes 
on the edges of water-filled bowls 
and frown, 
but I will remember: 
Last time they painted me in a family, 
all dressed in matching maroons, 
boys in sweaters, girls in ruffles. 
The backdrop loomed like charcoaled smoke. 
I sat on the floor, clutching a red cheek. 
All the children were crying. 



Mary Stone Dockery's poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, >kill author, Weave, Midwestern Gothic, Foundling Review, Breadcrumb Scabs, and many other fine journals. Her chapbook Aching Buttons will be released in January, 2012 by Dancing Girl Press. In 2011 she received the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award in Poetry and her chapbook Becoming an Island was a semi-finalist in the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize. She is the co-founding editor of Stone Highway Review and a co-editor of Blue Island Review, in addition to reading for Gemini Magazine and working for Portal del Sol. Currently, she lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas.