Portrait (After Arcimboldo)

I made this self all by myself
I drove this nail into the wall myself
I stained the wood’s grain I planed the wood myself
I wrote the book on the shelf I made myself

The very fact is the face of the made thing
A fact is that it’s hard to see the face from within the thing
I want to say the face is a thinking thing
But the fact is that a face only thinks it is a thinking thing

A spine on a book and legs on a chair
And legs on a table and arms on a chair
A vase’s neck a cup’s lip a water-ring on a chair’s
Arm made by a body all disappeared whose weight pressed itself down into a—

Who can know and also not know what he knows?—
A feeling called music but music only a word he used to know
And empty rings and bracelets and scattered beads all forms of knowing
Absence as the finger fills the shape by which it’s known

What I am inside of I cannot see that I cannot see
I cannot see inside myself to see
Memory and song or even a bone is a faith that says “Do not see”
Or a tree that holds its blossoms’ husks all winter long is what I cannot see

Not one object exists in this song
Not even the singer as he sings this song
It’s bad advice to tell those without a face to sing and never stop singing
The voice inside the mask but it’s the mask that sings

An anger song a war song a love song all must be pursued to become real
In ardor must be pursued to become real
There was a bird in the deep wood’s all gloom that sang as if real
But only when the poet shouted away did the bird become real

It sounds like a joke, but I told my face to go away
A child might know to close his eyes so that his face goes away
But the inside of the face is this darkness from which one can’t run away
Nor does running help that much when you want to run away

It helps to be less than beautiful it helps to have on the lips a livid scar
Demonstrating heaven is a form of accuracy legible only in a scar
And angels differ from monsters only in the capacity of monsters to bear scars
But an angel can cut through your body with its body and leave no scar

I bring up angels only to distract myself from the starless dome
The bankrupt planetarium’s silent projector beneath the blank dome
But I sit in the folding chair anyway looking up at the dome
On which the fake stars never appear and the heroes vacate their theater’s ancient dome

This poem is just another song not meant for hearing
The first cause spins the furthermost globe with its thumb all calloused from eternity’s hearing
And I drum my thumb against the wood too quiet for anyone’s hearing
Even my own     I simply feel a pressure that replaces hearing

I want a teacher
There’s an emptiness around which I must gather objects but no one will teach
Me what objects those should be     no one will teach
Me what is the made thing but a fact no else’s face can teach

My face—
What work must be done I want to say some words about a face any face
Mine which seems to be an action a face
Should do words should come out of a face

But these words all come out by hand and this face is the hand’s accident
This face in which the lion starves because the swallow starves, an accidental
Sympathy or rhythm that prolongs the moment of contemplation into an accident
The mind cannot avoid its own dispersal into accident

And that accident is my face, see: on a doorstep, a crumb;
See: the crease of the dog-eared page; see: a broken string;
See: snake’s skin, bookmark, and this broken cocoon;
See: this shaken pollen’s blush still mars this blank page;
See: the curve of the deer’s tender haunch, and the plastic hoop
Through which the child blows her incandescent bubble;
See: the ruined stairs, the spokeless banister, the railing
Screwed into the empty wall; See: sea foam and those curtains
Of pine dust blown yellow into the sea; See: this slender stalk
And the chaff fallen from the winnowed germ, and the seed all blown away,
That placed above my body holds my body down

Copyright © 2015 by Dan Beachy-Quick. “Portrait (After Arcimboldo)” originally appeared in gentlessness (Tupelo Press, 2015). Reprinted with permission from the author.