Portrait in Chalk and Charcoal

He leans into the pavement,
close enough to kiss the cold
hardness of it, squinting through
a dusting of charcoal. There’s a smear
on his cheek that points to his ear,
red with cold. He has coalminer’s
fingers and a cough that rattles his ribs.
The jacket across his shoulders has seen
better days, but the charcoal’s pristine
and the coloured chalks are clean.
On the pavement, his soul shines
through crosshatching and charcoal lines,
and his face stares up from the concrete –
until the clouds break.

Kim M. Russell, 8th October 2019

Image result for self portrait of a pavement artist

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Poetics: On Profiles and Portraits

Anmol, our host today, can’t believe that it’s October already – neither can I! He tells us that studying journalism has been a whirlwind of a journey so far and explains how he has learnt to profile people for hard news reports as well as features. He gives us an example of observing a migrant worker, in order to get a picture of who is in words.

He gives us as examples poems with vivid descriptions of people by Charles Bukowski, Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot, as well as a self-portrait by Afaa Michael Weaver.

Anmol would like us to write/create profiles/portraits in our verse.

49 thoughts on “Portrait in Chalk and Charcoal

    1. Thank you, Bjorn. I’ve seen some fabulous pavement artists, and some incredible portraits. Have you heard of Julian Beever, also known as the Pavement Picasso? He’s an English pavement artist who’s been around since the mid-1990s. Much of his work is 3-D. here’s a link to his website: http://www.julianbeever.net/


  1. What a fantastic visual! Your words make us see him and know him through his work/actions — the specific details like the smear on his cheek and coalminer hands conjure such a clear image. That ending is a gem, Kim! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how your characterize the artist, dressed a little shabby but his “charcoal’s pristine and his chalk’s clean.” I take the last line as the images he creates are impermanent but also one crying as they watch him work. What a beautiful tribute to the street artist, Kim. So vivid.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A cough and coal miner’s hands…this is one of your best to date. Although he is probably British I see him as Welsh. His face a part of his work…with the colors I see his face in Turner or Whistler.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t see the picture before finishing the poem; when I scrolled down and saw it, it was /so exactly the image/ that you painted in my head. I am in awe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Terrific portrait, so gritty and yet ethereal. We get so much rain here in the Pac NW, I have never seen a pavement artist; sand and ice sculptures, and chainsaw figures, yes. The one line about his miner’s hands and cough opens up a vast back story, this forced to retire miner with black lung and the heart of an artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Chalk drawings can be amazing – we don’t see them rise to an art form too often in this country. They are truly art for art’s sake because of their transitory nature. I think of the prehistoric cave paintings found deep inside the earth, gone unseen for century upon century or petroglyphs scratched in a box canyon wall and wonder if there’s an atavistic memory that the street artist embodies – something that’s always been a part of being human that ties us directly to those ancient ones. The sidewalk is not so different from the rocky surface of a cave.

    Liked by 1 person

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