The Artist Dilemma


I am Ensor, the pencilled likeness, disavowed and overpainted in bone

            as I am Ensor, prepped civet in thick running blood and hung

with all my pieces jugged, staring down at floor-bound shadowed second skin

            as I am Ensor in a pearlescent palette, face amongst the crowd

who knows nothing more grotesque than humanity en masse,

            as I am Ensor, masks confronting death; I am death

           as I am Ensor in 1960, the marrow man in haircut need

           as I am Ensor fighting Ensor over pickled herring, buck-jawed

and fatally retrograde, sun-burnt skies blazed above the decomposing

            as I am Ensor in my mother’s attic, locked in around the carnivalesque

skeletons dressed in tourniquet vests, the tableaux death that steadily ferments

            as I am Ensor, golden wrapped with golden hands cradling

a golden slab, slothful spitting image, all lolled inside a see-through chest

            as I am Ensor, man of sorrows, Japanese Jesus, thorn-crown

and appealing pink robes; they call me sacrilegious

            as I am Ensor Christ, lost in Brussels

            as I am Ensor, demon teased

as I am Ensor in the flowered hat

            as I am blank in Ensor’s mask.


Sam Kendall