Marisol Baca – Self Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle, Albrecht Dürer

Marisol Baca featured image

Marisol Baca

Self Portrait of the Artist Holding a Thistle, Albrecht Dürer


I wash my hand over the blossoms
with their vigilant, abusive growing
the softest part, like filaments of milkweed,
engraved into my skin
don’t let go

It’s a strange masochism
picking a flower that causes pain
searching the eyes for a look that will not be there

~ ~ ~

What did it mean for him to suffer?
bound in a small, insignificant gift
of thistle
for himself
on his wedding day

We knew he hid messages in his etchings
the thistle, a symbol
of an oath
attentive to his own hands
clean, intense, muscled, delicate
positioning the weed’s abnormal, angled stem

The mirror,
the strange positioning of his face
not moving, but moving
the hand to paint

He would be readying himself
the Christ pose, years later

To position and paint again
the layered brush stroke
He loved that woman and his suffering

~ ~ ~

My husband wore a thistle in his lapel
at our wedding
this ritual does not belong to my people or his
it was stolen from out of Europe—just taken

It was propagated
and the blossom was a thick grey heart,
the leaves were hands that were perfectly placed—
even with their ragged saw-tooth sides
tucked into a slot on his tuxedo
a facility of obvious suffering

find them growing on the escarpment,
near the San Joaquin River,
the path obscured by fog
alive in their clustered snarl
chokes the throat
leaves stickers on lips
hangs on to the tip of a skirt

~ ~ ~

Or perhaps, that painting is all about Albrecht, himself
as an artist and a man
holds loose the stem of the plant
wears an embroidered coat
red pomp hat

He is marking
his place
All I am is set forth by the lord
After all, what is suffering like the life
sacrificed for the god?


Marisol Baca’s artist statement:

Over the past 15 days, I have been writing a poem a day. This concentrated workload allowed me to sit face-to-face with poems that I have been wanting to write for a long time— stories that I have wanted to investigate for a long time. It was a difficult thing to do, but the right time to do it. These poems are about exploring the work of a favorite artist of mine and finding out more about my family history. The first eight poems are interrelated and are about the surrealist painter, Remedios Varo. Her paintings evoke wonder and curiosity in me, and I love them. The second set of poems deal with stories about my great grandmother and her sisters. There are some stories in these poems that I have been thinking about for a long time, maybe even years, and have not been able to write until now. Last week I had a dream about my great grandmother standing at the entrance of a doorway telling me to go ahead and get it done. So I did.

Published by jeffersonbeavers

Jefferson Beavers is a multimedia storyteller based in Fresno, Calif. He works at Fresno State and enjoys volunteering in the community.

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