Honorable Mention – 2020 James H. Nash Contest

Portrait of a Man, Probably


in velvet and linen, with a collar
of lace probably purchased at great expense,
possibly made by hand to order, perhaps
just stepping out, probably to the theater,
doubtless running late and disturbing
the performance or arriving home earlier
than expected, intruding on a scene staged
for his displeasure, maybe mildly concerned,
judging by the eyes. Probably, actually almost
certainly, sitting in a studio, presumably in London,
owned by a painter, believably Dutch or Flemish,
likely for hours, if not days, at least
for charcoal studies if not for the oils themselves.
Plausibly a member of Parliament,
as like as not of the Lords, though conceivably
nothing of the sort. Feasibly the dedicatee
of Hobbes’ Leviathan, one might assume more
than mildly concerned by the circumstances of his
moment, the deposition and death of kings, the long
wound of civil unrest, strife unknown since the Anarchy,
though no doubt painted with all this still ahead,
mayhap for a healthy commission. Of moderate
financial value at best. At first glance of little
artistic value, beyond the meager merit
of its technical details, its play of light and dark,
falling short of the old masters, perhaps,
its effect falling just shy of probably intended
regality, like two children trying on their fathers’
clothes. In all likelihood not often thought about,
little noticed, not to receive a second glance.
Probably not much else to be said, other than
it looks a little like a friend of mine. Considerably.

WILLIAM YOUNGBLOOD was born and raised near Los Angeles, California, and lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis before serving as the 2018-2019 Junior Poetry Teaching Fellow. His work has appeared in Prolit Magazine and Passages North.