Issue 155, Summer 2000
It surprises me how quickly I can conjure
You before me, more familiar to myself
Than my own mirrored face. You sit
At home on your Thursday evenings.
It is your devastating composure I covet.
You must teach me how to attain that
Inured expression. No. Not the posture
Of your face the moment after he taunts you,
But just before. The look you keep
Poised upon your lips and arched brow.
The way you withdraw from what borders
You, your slightly squinted eyes
Waiting for a secluded moment
To blink. Can you see what I admire
—stilted and vague—returning
And returning behind the locked doors,
Companied by the tiresome artifacts?
How did you shed your animation
And perfect this old-world decorum while
Sitting in the garden, waiting to be scorched?
You must instruct me to behave as you do—
Aloof yet deeply feeling. The way your face
Can at once reveal and withhold everything.
Silent, without ever appearing at a loss
For what to say. No accidents or misspoken
Utterances. I am still not sovereign of my body.
In fact, I most closely resemble one of Picasso's
Terrible women, face flailing about in so many
Directions it appears infinite. In museums,
I ignore these replicas of myself, seeking out
The mouths and eyes choosing their revelations
With care. Who was your teacher in this?
Did you model yourself on the unrelenting
Cypresses that stood beyond your strange window?
Or did you reach further to your second time abroad—
When your callow heart was hopeful and inspired?
You must have been a diligent pupil—studying
The saints that lined Charles Bridge in Prague.
You must have preserved an image of them
As they kept watch over the shallow river,
Deliberate, swathed in cobwebs that at first
Glance hung about their bodies like giant
Fishnets, glistening in the hollow moonlight.
I see you watching them: even now I am yours.