[3. Ekphrastic] | Nam Le | Granta

[3. Ekphrastic]

Nam Le

(Self Portrait)


Right of blood: ba ngoai.
She in me in me.

Tinge of colour decay.

Note: spots and blotches
À la calligraphic ink.

Spilled logogram.
Smeared morphemes.

Character cannot cohere.

Note: overexposure
Giving effect of flatness.

Note: low contrast
Giving effect of flatness.

Note: lack of contour
Giving effect of flatness.

As if repeatedly photocopied
From photocopies.



Note clothing:
French ao dai (silk if you like)
with off-centered mandarin collar.

(It writes itself.)

Note face: full moon circle
rising from slim circle collar.

Hair flat, conforming.
Acceptant of ( path of ) totality.

What the photo cannot say:
Are her eyebrows painted T’ang green?
Is that smudge on her brow actually gold foil
in the Southern Dynasties style?
Her unseen teeth black-lacquered?

All in the look.

Note expression: inscrutable, impassive,
passive as craters,
scuffs on jade terrace.

Now write about it what you like.




Photo courtesy of the author. This poem is from a longer series called 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem.

Nam Le

Nam Le is the author of The Boat, On David Malouf and the forthcoming 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem.  

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