by wynn everett
(when I had skin on),
I fancied walking my fingers around my jaw.
Where all ten would fight their turn –
and ridges to brain, agreed,
that I, too,
was no different.
Years could tickle or beat, but
in shade, my grip would find –
And mind’s pupil rate
this transient walk,
a divine relief of reality.
When flames would ignite
the flesh to engage, reaching out,
I would pull back my opponents hair,
and suddenly, the melodious fire would alter and mew.
Their shell was wrapped the same
as mine.
And so, looking back –
(when I had skin), I am glad that I found
that delicate branch in the skull.
Where my bone drew a map
to the end.

0 thoughts on “Visage

  1. I’d have to spend some time trying to figure that one out myself. I think it could be done (the poem seems very ripe, if more than a bit oblique) but I just don’t have the time. So, no, you’re not stupid Shawn. The poem is just complex.

  2. This may be a difficult poem to understand. But one thing it is not is prose. And sometimes a good poem defies a literal interpretation as this one seems to do. Several readers might come way with different interpretations, all of which may be legitimate in that each interpretation is what each reader got out of the poem. As it is with many poems that can’t be mistaken for prose, it’s possible to like this as a poem and not be certain as to what it means. How many of us would write the same commentary on a painting by Picasso that we all would otherwise agree is a good painting? Poetry can be simple or complex and still be good.

  3. I completely agree that poetry is interesting in that it means different things to different people. For me, I was touched by the author’s reflection on life and relate to the understanding of one’s awareness of self. The first stanza speaks loudest to me.

  4. Well, yeah. There’s an awful lot going on in a good poem that doesn’t require a typical “understanding” of what the poet meant by writing it. What I like best about this one, though, is that it pulls me in to puzzle over it. Beyond that, the repetition of “when I had skin” seems to tie it to a particular context from which the speaker looks back with an expanded perspective. All in all, it’s very interesting and well-written.

  5. I’m really surprised at the positive reviews. I’m not going to say that this isn’t poetry, but I am going to say that it’s not good. A major trend in poetry is to obfuscate for the sake of obfuscation, and this poem merely follows that trend. I’ve tried to see the point, but there isn’t one there. Give me prose anytime.
    Signed, A Recovering English Major
    PS: I strongly question the artistic merit of a lot of Picasso’s paintings. I’d say his paintings are revered for no good reason at all. Now his prints are another thing alltogether. A lot of those are pretty damn good.

  6. I disagree Joe. I don’t think it was ambiguous for the sake of being that way. I’ve looked at this several times and I formed an opinion about it that could have no merit but…
    Analyzing the views of the speaker before and after their transformation/realization might give insight. There was something he or she perceived as unsettling about the way “years could tickle or beat” the skin.
    Something about the way the speaker’s skin changed over the years is what made him or her anxious, because it was obviously changing, but the end result of the changing was not prevalent (I saw this as somebody being curious/scared of what happens upon death). However, the speaker did sense the end by feeling their underlying bones with their fingers, and he or she found some solace there. He or she knew the answer was under there but couldn’t fully grasp it, I guess you could say.
    Then somebody’s skin was burned off. I took it as the speaker setting somebody on fire and peeling off their skin because they were too anxious to wait to see what would happen when his or her own life would end. Upon seeing the bone, the speaker was comforted by the knowledge and understanding of the end. Then the speaker died and is now looking back on it peacefully.
    So I don’t think there’s some moral or that it really means anything. I think it’s an exploration into the sometimes psychotic emotions that accompany our thoughts on death. I don’t know if that’s what the author was even doing but I found it wonderfully eerie either way.

  7. Matt, I enjoyed reading your interpretation.
    I also would like to take a stab at this one as I have reread it about 7 times. I will use in my example the honorable Joe Cloyd, Almighty Judge of all things poetic. I say this with all due respect for my elders, this is what I believe the poem means from my window.
    Joe – I assume you are at your computer since you are reading this. Imagine, it is 2085. You are no longer here. You are looking back on this moment in your life, when you had some skin on, sitting at your computer. Now pick up your hands Joe, and put your ten fingers around your jaw. Let them fight their turns to feel the skeleton beneath. The ridges in your fingers agree with your brain – that you are no different, than me, than Matt, than Mr./Mrs. Everett, than everyone that has put a comment above you. I believe that is what that stanza means. Then, remember that horrible year in your life, that beat the hell out of you? Then remember that amazing year that tickled your soul? At night your hands would still find their way to your jaw, and you’d realize that this walk on earth is “transient”. Nothing will last. You are but a skeleton wrapped in the same shell as me (Oh! The terror, we are wrapped the same, your superior brain and my 22 year old thoughts). Then Joe, you meet offenders in your life, like Mr./Mrs. Everett. You reach his hair back, and AHA! He’s wrapped the exact same as well. That bone again. Dammit. And so, when you look back, you are thankful for the reminder that you are not better than anyone else, as much as your Recovering English Major Brain fights to tell you otherwise.
    And as far as “not being good”, I would disagree since it has spurned much conversation – what all poetry yearns to do. Just as we stand before that Picasso that you deem invaluable, we are still standing together in front of it, two men – talking. And when you start getting heated, reach those ten fingers up and find that bone. It will remind you of your end, that you and I are the same. It may even humble you for awhile.
    Signed A Recovering Ivy League Elitist

  8. This is a brilliant take on what our human bodies represent. We really aren’t that different from one another. Thank goodness there is more to this life than just our “shells”. Beautiful poem.

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