It's a question of materials:
a thick, loamy mud will
make a mask that reveals
your true complexion;
a square of black tulle
will hide it. But --
For any mask more permanent,
forgetfullness is the kindest
stuff, but mostly I've
turned inward, first leaving
the outer walls shored
up in mechanic,
painted smiles, in veils,
in gay cut-outs waving
from glass-paned eyes;
whatever sends you
You solicitous, untouched ones:
Leave me alone.
I'm carving my own mask.
I'm left alone.
I'll be my own companion.
Ed note--this was written from a suggestion in an exercise book, so if you don't like it, blame my own complete lack of inspiration. If you think it's okay or worth bettering, leave a suggestion or two. Thanks!
His sweeping mustache and the rose between her teeth—
Fine aluminum. Above them, a beeping wreath
Of midi music ebbs against walls consisting
Of circuit boards, each complex furrow a trysting
Ground for minds who’ve moved too far apart, the modern
Twist on Donne’s compass needle. And on the table
The wine is poured, faint hint of ether, grease and oil
The banquet laid: sparkplugs, wires, a solenoid coil.
The dancers’ faces shine in each other’s bodies,
The mirrored sheen a promise of something naughty—
Saved for later. Now, the tango richly pulses,
In a wailing binary, moving finally
to its denouement, a dip to the floor, now covered
with petals formed like ones and ohs, where the lovers
end their smooth descent with a soft, metallic kiss,
their wires crossing in sudden, unprogrammed bliss.
Then, the mustache hovering over the quivering rose,
Handlebars all unfurled—gently says “Hello world.”
You look as though you never had a shirt that fit
in your life -- and not because they were too stretched or small,
but made of bad material, some blend
that doesn't breathe on your bored body. Heavy bored--yes--
with your cigarette trailing ash above your head,
dull eyes framed in the thick black specs
of your generation; your grizzled beared that makes
your mouth somehow seem like a tear in a shag rug.
You look on and through with watery eyes, watery
and still and deep enough for your purposes. Oh,
whatever you do, Mr. John, Mr. Henry--
don't look down.
ed note--here's some information on John Berryman. The photo section doesn't contain the photo that I wrote the poem from, but the last one is very like it.