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Her Self-Portrait

by F. E. Clark

Eternal essence is what she claimed to capture. Ground down, boiled up—she mixed her own lush pigments. She of the silver-white star grit—grain of sternum and cuspids, deep swirling purple offal of the secrets within—the clotted red of her lovers’ life blood. She of the depths, beyond acceptability, beyond humanity she dwelt—bone dust in her hair, draped in webs of viscera, casting likenesses into the night. Can we still breathe the dark sweet spice—putrid, fading in memoriam, lathed upon the canvas? Or have the final degenerating keepsake atoms, of those she loved beyond all others, been snuffed up by a thousand-thousand freak show junkies? We will never know the identities of all she painted. Sold to private collections—rotting visages kept in velvet black. Serial myth. Killer legend. Her self-portrait, framed posthumously, the most notorious of all her works. Viridian spores, rusting matte, crumbling grey adiopocere—here, see the artist herself. From the amalgam of DNA it is said that she did not go alone. 

Author's Note

I don’t care to paint my own likeness, forget selfies; I don’t even like anyone else taking my photograph. The nearest I’ve come to portraiture was as a young girl, when I drew from photos the faces of musicians and film stars; I remember the sweet face of a Scottish singer who later ended his own life, the notoriously promiscuous cowboy-film actor, the TV-show detective. Now I paint landscapes and abstracts.

F. E. Clark lives in Scotland. She writes, paints, and takes photographs—inspired by nature in all its forms. A Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominee, her poetry, flash-fiction, and short stories can be found in anthologies and literary magazines. More details can be found on her website,, and she tweets intermittently at @feclarkart.

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Previous work at matchbook: Eve of the Fall

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