Madeleine Simmons

Self Portrait as Venus de Milo

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Salvador Dalí once told me I was just an anthropomorphic cabinet
so he built compartments in me, shoving his junk in and forgetting about it
in turn, I grew teeth to line the drawers so I could chew and digest the hard truths of men
now, a tongue has budded to give voice to all the things I’ve always wanted to say

my days begin when the sun is tossed into the middle of the sky
the heat giving ability to motion as it illuminates my figure
crumbling-ashen-grey coloured flesh with holes in my bones leftover from pill deposits
my unpupiled eyes have adjusted as the flash of cameras begin

still I recoil at the voyeurism, as they all peer up at me on this pedestal they placed me on
their gazes place unified hands on me in glory. I never asked to be a God
yet, I was created by him, two slabs of people fitted together, and I wonder each night
“Should I curse or worship?” Each one ends with a kiss

they all speak to me in languages I don’t know, how I wish it was Greek to me
then I could understand it, and think of my home Melos, instead the only thing
I understand is a name they call me that isn’t mine. I too have long forgotten it
lost in the fibro fog along with my arms they felt didn’t match the rest of me

fame falls on these faults of mine, mystery lines in my phantom pains
and I try to remember what it felt like, to hold out my arms
did I once have an apple in my hand? Holding sin as I judged Paris
or was it a mirror or shield shoved in my face? forcing me to stare at imperfection

instead, air slaps my naked chest, the forever drooping drape
does nothing to cover as no one offers me help, as I shout
“I have no arms, why don’t you help me?” but they stare on
as they whisper in admiration about me, the mutilated masterpiece 

time goes on and the hours have slowly eroded me down
ebbing away at my exterior, yet I’ve remembered one meeting
I was dragged in before a King as everyone was claiming credit to me
trying to use me for propaganda as they shouted, “Medici Venus, she’s a copy. Our’s is better.”

they kept on spouting nonsense to a yawning monarch
trying to get over the loss of something they stole
“I belong to none, I belong to no one, not even myself”
these words I wanted to say, that are never listened to, that still hold true

Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch: A photograph of a marble statue. The figure is feminine, in a leaning pose with the hips being twisted to the right. The figure is nude, with only a drape wrapped around the hips in a loose fashion, giving the illusion it's slipping off. The hair is wrapped in a loose bun, parted in the middle. The arms of the statue are missing, with the left arm broken at the shoulder and the right arm broken halfway through the upper arm. The statue is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, which is why it is called Venus, but some believe the statue actually represents the sea-goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on Melos. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo
Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch: A photograph of a marble statue. The figure is feminine, in a leaning pose with the hips being twisted to the right. The figure is nude, with only a drape wrapped around the hips in a loose fashion, giving the illusion it’s slipping off. The hair is wrapped in a loose bun, parted in the middle. The arms of the statue are missing, with the left arm broken at the shoulder and the right arm broken halfway through the upper arm. The statue is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, which is why it is called Venus, but some believe the statue actually represents the sea-goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on Melos. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo
 Venus de Milo with Drawers by Salvador Dalí: A photograph of a half-size plaster reproduction of the famous marble statue of Venus de Milo, altered with pompon-decorated drawers in the figure’s forehead, breasts, stomach, abdomen, and left knee. 
Venus de Milo with Drawers by Salvador Dalí: A photograph of a half-size plaster reproduction of the famous marble statue of Venus de Milo, altered with pompon-decorated drawers in the figure’s forehead, breasts, stomach, abdomen, and left knee. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2018. Source:  https://www.artic.edu/artworks/185184/venus-de-milo-with-drawers

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About the Author

Madeleine Simmons is a grad student at Cal State, San Bernardino. She received her BA from the University of California, Riverside. Her main focus of study is Narrative Medicine, and she has spoken at conferences on the topic. She has published work with Pacific Review and Inlandia as well as written an article for the Press Enterprise. She lives in her home turned sanctuary to five cats in Riverside, California.