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Self-Portrait

2009 March 17
by Joseph Bastow
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Skimming Wine-Dark Seas Beneath

Hazel eyes are vessels
skimming wine-dark seas beneath.
A gale wind fills them
With sleepless nights and dream.

An ordinary mouth
Made remarkable when closed
House gnashed, yellowed teeth
And a coated tongue
Wet with unspeakable rain

While just below the lower lip
a spit of dark hair
is island to the nose
whose flared nostrils and clenched jaw

summon disappointment
over deserted farmland’s forehead
whose old rows
weather well-stayed feet of crows’
dancing dirge.

Hands fold into churches’ people
on left knee
crossing right
as posture bends by gravity
Of books in dim light.

Worn brown shoes
Acknowledge scuffles
Between doors
Kicked in. Slammed shut

As legs in worn jeans
Sense their good luck
In being able
To stagger away

From five o’clock shadows
That stay.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. March 18, 2009

    I enjoyed this, Joe — especially the stanza:

    …to the nose
    whose flared nostrils and clenched jaw

    summon disappointment
    over deserted farmland’s forehead
    whose old rows
    weather well-stayed feet of crows’
    dancing dirge.

    The images in this stanza are very effective, but I think the rhyme feels a little forced the way the sentence syntax lands right now. You might try – “whose old rows weather | the dancing dirge of well-stayed crows.” You might lose the crow’s feet turn, but “feet of crows” seems a bit awkward to me – and the phrase “crow’s feet” is familiar enough that we ought to catch it.

    Otherwise, though, I love this “self-portrait”!

  2. March 18, 2009

    Great job, Joe! My favorite part starts with “well worn shoes…” and carries right through to the end, though I think the whole piece is terrific. Sounds like an interesting character!

  3. Jospeh permalink*
    March 18, 2009

    Thanks for the comments and the insights!

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