Self-portrait in Tempera

by Dan Campbell

the egg cracks.
your finger leaves my forehead
sticky with beginnings.

the birds in your eyes withdraw.
the mirror between us speaks silence.
i am brooding.

with peacock feathers,
i would braid my hair,
paint my face with power,
strut a warrior's dance.

but all i want is to be taken
in this bower i have made.

my bones breathe hollow,
wick up the colors you give:
hatched green, your voice
coils and sways, sibylant.

i am transfixed.
rainbows swell in my throat.

sweeter still would be your kiss:
a bite of sugar,
the burn of spice...

my skin breaks.
my voice stretches.

between us lie our offerings:
this for that,
like yet unlike,
the trade as yet unplayed.

i have bound myself to the mast —
a stalemate surrender.

who will light upon this pyre?
who will i burn to become?

Dan Campbell's work has appeared in Stone Telling, Goblin Fruit, Niteblade, Fantastique Unfettered, Mythic Delirium, BĂȘte Noire, Something Wicked and Daily Science Fiction. He edits poetry for Bull Spec magazine in Durham, NC and ruminates on Livejournal.

When asked of what poem the word "cherry" immediately makes him think, Dan replied as follows: "the first thing that comes to mind is George Washington saying he cannot tell a lie after chopping down a cherry tree (and, of course, lying about it) — though I do not know if there was a poem for such. Poem... poem... poem... Ah! I have a vague recollection of a sad haiku about cherry blossoms, and so have no idea what haiku it was now, but here is a fine selection (of which I particularly like the fifth).

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