Self Portrait

Artist: Alisa Amor 

Title: Self Portrait

Completed April 2018

Running Time: 6:05

Musical demo of “Self Portrait,” which follows Rosario through a stereotypical day as she visits the beauty salon, picks up her son at school and returns home. Rosario creates a caricature of herself that highlights the tragedy of her daily routine.  

My intention is to bring out the humor and the pain of this portrayal, while creating a deeper awareness in the listener of the difficulties of being fully human in an unsupportive world.


Self Portrait

I am the Mrs. the missus: That kind of treatment 

was really hard to get. At least it wasn’t easy for me.

And it’s more useful for any kind of social interaction than a Phd would be

or any other letters added to my name by an institution or a university.

And so, I’m gonna show off my trophy. Say it one more time out loud:

I am misses…. I’m Fat… or skinny

maybe it depends on the positions of the stars and the constellations.

Or maybe it’s my hormonal cycles

or some other variety of scientific information that I don’t know,

I’m Blonde, when I choose to wear this blond wig.

Or brunette, which seems to be my only other option but the real truth is

that my hair is getting gray, and it just keeps on getting grayer

and actually I’m kind of ugly. It all depends 

on who is putting on my makeup.

Yes, my looks have changed a lot as the years go by

–but not as much as Weininger the philosopher says, 

that the times have changed—I’m just meh

And on one hand, that’s good because then other women won’t hate me.

And, on the other hand, I have a few admirers and 

friends who call me on the telephone to say congratulations!

And they send me these long boring letters

and then they come over just for a drink, it’s always whisky on the rocks

and chit chat for hours about literature and politics.

Do I have friends who are women?….

Hmmm…well sometimes, really hardly ever. 

They might come over for an hour. Mostly 

I spend all my time running away from mirrors,

because they’re always gonna tell me the same damn thing,

that I don’t know how to dress and that I look ridiculous

especially when I’m trying to be provocative.

I am a mother, my son’s name is Gabriel: you know, that boy

one day he’s gonna grow up to be a judge, and then no one’s gonna have a chance in hell.

And maybe, one day in the future, you never can tell, maybe he’ll give someone the death penalty

but until then well,

I will love him and I’ll write this poem, and then I’ll write another 

and than I’ll write another and another, I write like a professor I’m giving everyone a lecture.

I collaborate in magazines in my special areas of interest

and one day every week  I write a column for the newspaper and every week it’s published.

I live right in front of the forest. But I almost

never take time to just enjoy the view and I never

cross the street, that’s between us

to take a walk or maybe just to breathe.

One day I’d like to run my fingers over

all the rough bark on those trees.

I know that everyone should listen to music

but I elude it rather frequently, maybe I just don’t use it.

I know that it’s good to go see art

but I never go out to any exhibitions

or the theater premieres or the movie club.

I would rather be right here, just like I am right now, reading a book

and if I turn off this light, I can think a while

and distract myself with all the things I need to do.

I suffer but it’s more like a bad habit, Or maybe it’s inherited

or maybe I do it to be more like other people

than for anything objective.

I would be happy if I could just figure out how it’s done.

I mean, if they had taught me how to smile, how to make conversation 

what do other people wear when they’re out there having fun?

Instead, they only taught me how to cry, 

But crying for me, it’s like I’m some kind of broken machine

because I don’t cry in the funeral parlor

or when the moment is transcendent or sublime or even in the face of a catastrophe,

I cry when when I burn the rice or 

oh no, the property taxes, I think I lost that last receipt!

Original poem by Rosario Castellanos. Translation and music by Alisa Amor