Artwork for PenhaPenha
Head and Doll
by James Penha

I may be modern. I
may be more head
than body now, my
pigment pitted and
pared, my
square jaw
cubed, my
visage kinked
to complement my
smirk, my
irony, my
ness, but I
am with you
totem, you
silent shaman,
you god of our
jungle, our
islands, our

ARTWORK: Photograph by James Penha of “Head and Doll” (1907) by Pablo Picasso exhibited in tandem at Picasso Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 2015.

PHOTO: James Penha and his wooden doll from the island of Borneo photographed at their home outside Jakarta, Indonesia, October 2015.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: On holiday in my hometown, I was drawn to MoMA’s historic Picasso Sculpture exhibition, where I found myself looking at my own Head in a glass case containing as well a Doll eerily resembling the ancient megaliths one finds half buried all over the islands of my adopted home of Indonesia and so like the totems carved for centuries by the natives of the archipelago.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry.