This poem is part of an ekphrastic study of the figurative paintings of the Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum from the time period of 1983-2005.
"I have painted the young man, he who
existed before Narcissus... what existed
before the myth, what happened earlier...!"
The soldier widens his face an extra inch
by dipping it in a waterhole. It's difficult
to drink water and gaze at one's
reflection at the same time.
Survival or vanity?
The distortion is profoundly relieved
that the soldier does not reposition nor
lift his head up.
Perception matters here as the face has
the ability to wring out of proportion, to
become more of itself.
The body must cooperate with
insolence. To cut survival and vanity in
halves. This is one method of instilling
contemptuous solemnness on the
waterhole. Even the rifle is seduced to
Modernity will later inculcate the face to
wheel itself out of the waterhole. After
all, the face has a flat tire and is
drowned in murkiness.
Above the soldier, a hole is carved out of
sky. It's believed by some that the face is
a lonely place to be. As Narcissus will
demonstrate later down the road, one
can be vain and still maintain a distance
All of this symbolism is getting to be too
much: for the painting, for the
observers, for the painter.
No fluid angels have parked their wings
on the ground in support of this self. It's
clear that his calculating body is finished
with clear intention: he wants his face to
sink deeper into his reflection.
There is no retreating after this.