Instructions to a Portraitist

Jennifer Militello

Add to me a mechanical voice, the smell
of the heavens because they smell of the earth,
and what would hydrogen-react with past forms of us

falling. Add to me the removal: let the blood
that follows bead. Look half at me, half at
the long grass color the sky is beginning to have,

beauty’s poisonous reptile sleeping in your hand.
If I wear a gemstone, make its thousands laugh.
Don’t think. You must reshape me as the fabrics

grow weak. Otherwise, I come out colorless
and afraid. Add to me a long stretch of wetlands
and the dying off of birds. Invent me teeth to

bite with, scars to leave, the places you would maim
already in my eyes as atmospheres the edges
whisper, profiles I have let swan, all the children

you will later be made to believe in,
their lineless fists and brows of silver lakeness.
The gunshot, the cricket song, irises of steam.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro
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JENNIFER MILITELLO has had work appear in North American Review, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Writers at Work, and the Millay Colony for the Arts.