Poem: “Betrayal/Portrayal”, by Alan Hickman


Alan Forrest Hickman

From The Wallpaper Goes (Wasteland Press, 2005)

It’s a wonder the picture didn’t age
And I stay young
Stowed away in a closet for thirty years
The perfect metaphor
A life of compromise and disappointment
Stretched and framed
I’d forgotten all about it
The day Bill Pratt took charcoal in hand
And froze time
A good likeness, at least in part
I still think he got the mouth wrong
There’s something tentative about the chin
(Perhaps he got bored
Painting picture after picture
Of our senior class)
But the eyes, as the Brits say
The eyes are spot on
If they don’t quite follow you around the room
It’s the only drawing I have
(Unless you count the caricature
Tossed off by a Thai sketch artist
At a dinner party in Bangkok
Some dozen years on
I could have done without that one)
Bill himself is dead now
Or so I’ve heard
Never having attained fame
(No more have I)
He was voted most talented
By his classmates
(I settled for student of the month—
April, at its cruelest!)
In those days the future was set in stone
The moment it was that got out of hand
Like the time I made a u-turn
And crashed the VW
(The three of us escaped unharmed)
Bill numbered among the charmed ones
His dad a bird colonel
To whose exalted company I aspired
Yet all I can recall of our friendship
Is mixing up a batch of Sangria
In the unused maid’s quarters
Above my family’s flat in Aukamm
Looking back now
I can’t help but feel a bit shy
About my former self
He seems so confident, assured
If not quite the silk hat on a Bradford millionaire
Well, you get the point
But given all that hasn’t happened
In the intervening years
I think perhaps I owe them both
Bill and his art
                        An explanation.

Dr. Alan Hickman is a poet and essayist who has been teaching English literature and composition at the American University in Dubai for the past seven years. His interests are music, film, and travel. He received his PhD in English from the University of Arkansas in 1990. 

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