George & Angela Bowering
MR. W. S.

He has always reminded me of the king on a deck of playing cards.  He
is bearded like him.  He has two eyes, but they are looking at
different things.  The right one looks at you, deepened by 
Compassion?  Wisdom?  Amusement?  The left eye looks past you at the
possibility of something alarming at the periphery of the picture.  He
is a little wall-eyed, like Robert Duncan.  He is wary, like a mother
wolf.  He is also weary with watching, the mouth closed small around
what he doesn't say. His forehead extends upward, almost to the top of
his head, fades into disappearing hair and darkness, the beard and
moustache soft too, hiding the chin that withdraws into his shortened
neck, hunched into soft shoulder slopes, body sunk into weight at the
middle.  He retreats, sinks   backward into the arc that holds him
against darkness.  The picture is dark except for the luminous
forehead, the gaze, the rumpled collar with its drawstrings carelessly
untied. A silly ring gleams in his left earlobe, middle aged vanity. 
So at odds with his eyes, this trinket.  They say he loved men, though
he was married.  What would that mean in his time?  They burned them
then, with slow green faggots.  Would he make a joke?  My husband did,
at a party, standing on a darkened terrace beside the roasting lamb
squealing with each turn of a squeaking barbecue spit:  "Saint
Lawrence Lamb," he said, "Turn me over, I'm done this side."  I
laughed, but an image from Pasolini passed through my head. The face,
in spite of the beard, the baldness, the wary eyes, is soft, like an
infant's or a young girl's.  He cannot be bothered to protect himself.
He adopts no airs, wears no mask for the painter.  He lets himself be
seen.  It is not possible to see in that face, or past it, its
relationship to Lear and the fool, Cordelia and Cleopatra, dark lady
and Mr. W.H.  It offers us no reward for looking.  And yet it is
naked.  Like Sonia Braga's body, it is unconcerned with its nakedness
and is the more clothed for that. The protection lies elsewhere, or is
unneeded.  It seems not human, this cancellation of the body's self,
and yet the brow is furrowed, as if it struggled, or squinted against
the light.

The East Village Poetry Web