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This poem is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

Four Poems Attilio Bertolucci

PORTRAIT OF A SICK MAN

This man you see here, portrayed in red and black
and who occupies the entire spacious picture
is me at the age of fortynine wrapped up
in an ample dressing-gown that cuts the hands half off

as if they were flowers; you cannot tell whether the body
is lying down or is on a chair, and therefore this must be
one of the sick placed by windows framing the light of
    day -
another day doled out to eyes soon weary.

But when I ask the artist, my son of fourteen years,
whose portrayal he intended, he at once declares:
'One of those Chinese poets you had me read
as he gazes upon the world - in one of his last hours.'

What he says is true - now I remember giving him that
   book
which restores the heart with its celestial shores
and dark autumnal leaves: in it sages, or poets feigning sage,
...


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