“Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X”
—after Francis Bacon
Under Innocent, my father
holds his stomach and makes a mouth.
The kind of mouth that paints.
The one we know so well. A hole of
A blackout mouth, nearest exit.
He howls as if his stomach. and holds.
I never say it’s the mouth.
A blown out bulb to fix or live in. A fallen hinge;
more machine in its hook.
a white seethe, teeth missing.
everywhere electricity is shutting down
and closing over his private parts. He
wants to collapse.
He has a pig face atop his own
It’s the mouth
as he skins, and drains.
Of course, I know and he knows I know but we both pretend.
He is ugly when he makes this mouth
gums poked out.
Dilation, the floor, the cold.
Fingers knuckling, so when
he sees me
the painter drags his posture
like a watery skin.
He is shred to bone.
Frame by frame, it would be no match.
On the golden ropes,
the man needs a stall, a mat, a place to be sick.
“‘Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X'” is from play dead (Alice James Books, 2016).