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Today I am Thinking of Alice Neel’s James Hunter – Black Draftee (1965)

I hear they’re burning paintings now.
Today it was a piece by Alice Neel.
A half-finished portrait of James Hunter,
who was due to leave for Vietnam that week
and never returned for the second sitting.
Palpable sadness and fear
etched on his young face.
His presence diminishing in front of our eyes.
The painting was judged imperfect in
its incompleteness and was purged.

On my lunch break,
I’m thinking about the purpose of art,
and how a combination of words that makes no sense can
tell me everything I need to know about the human condition.
How love tastes rich like egg yolk
And how 2011 smells of mint and laundry soap,
And why I feel so sad in the summertime,
How it reminds me that everything is dying.
Now an airbrushed sheen covers the rot
of low calorie consumption.

I hear the word “book” is now redundant
and what I finished reading last night in bed
is better described as “content”
to be assimilated by a machine.
A story left unfinished by a dead author that
leaves me with a a deep sense of wondering.
I am a multitude of endings,
not a plot twist
but a criss-crossing intersection of every
cruel and wonderous thing
I have borne witness to.
Alice Neel once said “People come first,”
Today I noticed there is paint over my lines.
I am incomplete; I am human.
I have monstrous thoughts and there are
blank areas of me yet to be completed.
Or to be left—

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