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Sharon Kennedy-Nolle


Boy in a Red Waistcoat by Paul Cezanne

The bust you made,
broad shoulders clad in a skimpy jersey,
cornrowed head broke back, wobbly poised
as if for a last-ditch layup.
Was this Iverson? Reed?
You had to make it,
part of another art elective
you hated, punching the clay,
letting the brushes dry to ruin,
squeezing the oil tubes
till they oozed out their seams.
(The adjunct teacher always shook his head, smiling
at such spirited sinning in the studio,
another indulgence allowed the boarders.)
His nostril-less nose, unparted lips, tight-wrapped
in mummy swath, his mouth plastered,
brown smeared in rippling reproach.
So plug-ugly fierce, we had to hide it
like all we hid about you
that we didn’t like.
It’s all done
in the blackest hue,
now a piece of our night.
Enraged, his wide undrilled eyes appeal.


About the writer:
Sharon Kennedy-Nolle received an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop as well as a doctoral degree in nineteenth-century American literature from the University of Iowa and MAs from Johns Hopkins University and NYU. Chosen as the 2020 Chapbook Editor’s Pick by Variant Literature Press, Black Wick was published in 2021.

Image: Boy in a Red Waistcoat by Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). Oil on canvas. 5.7 x 54.7 cm. Between 1888 & 1890. Public domain.

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