“The Painters and I” by Laala Kashef Alghata


Michelangelo would be afraid to paint
my portrait, if he were asked
he would say, no; shake his head then
repeat, no.

Michelangelo would be afraid to paint
my portrait, for he'd see the hunger
in my lips, slightly cracking but flushed pink
and the loneliness in my eyes,
he would understand chocolate brown
is not always warmth, it can be icy.

I see the dejectedness in your posture,
he'd mutter, I cannot paint what I do not
want to preserve
. You're lost, he'd whisper.
I paint those who are found.


Picasso would tilt his head if asked
to paint my portrait; he'd try
and sit me down, move my arms.
He'd look at me intently, his expression
clear; I was what cubists look for,
broken before they even paint.

If Picasso agreed to my portrait,
it would be done in realism, because,
he'd explain, you're already abstract.


Warhol would not be convinced
to paint my picture. You are not famous,
he'd say, you are no one.

I am no one, I agree. Except,
I am that no one who loves art

If Warhol could be convinced
to paint me, my lips would be
smudged more than his Monroe,
as would my eyes; he'd hide my soul
in his work. He'd hide me.


Dali doesn't do portraits
and so would never do mine,
but if he were to it'd be perfect,
liquid dreams and futile reality.

I'd be stretched and balanced
on sticks to demonstrate
my fragility.


If I were asked to paint myself
and I have been, I would do it
in oil pastel, smudge myself
with ridiculous colours; greens
and oranges and reds.

You make yourself look an alien,
they exclaim,

and I say, exactly. Exactly.