Portrait – Marc Chagall | Blaise Cendrars, 1887-1961

Marc Chagall, Self Portrait, 1914

He's asleep
He's awake
Right away he's painting
He grabs a church and paints with the church
He grabs a cow and paints with the cow
With a sardine
With heads, hands, knives
He paints with an oxtail
With all the dirty passions of a little Jewish town
With all the exacerbated sexuality of provincial Russia
For France
Without sensuality
He paints with his hips
He has eyes in his hinder parts
Suddently it's your portrait
It's you gentle portrait
It's you gentle reader
It's me
It's him
It's his betrothed
It's the corner grocer
The girl who brings home the cows
The midwife
There are puddles of blood
They are washing newborn babies in them
Skies gone mad
The latest thing in mouths
The corkscrew Tower
He's Christ himself
He passed his childhood on the cross
He cuts his own throat every day
Suddenly he's not painting any more
He was awake
But now he's asleep
He's choking on his cravat
Chagall is astonished to be still alive.

Blaise Cendrars, Portrait – Marc Chagall 
trans. by John Dos Pasos


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