Twenty times the artist revisited the wreckage of his face
the way I do certain photographs—the dead stacked like
cordwood at Buchenwald, the naked girl running from
napalm at Trang Bang, the suited man plummeting on 9/11.
These people knew death first hand, were its messengers.
Like Terence, Albright claims through his blasted faces:
Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. “Nothing
human is alien to me—even if I have become an alien
to myself.” I bow to Albright’s bravery. I still stagger
when I face my corruption in the mirror—my waist given
out like rotten elastic, my skin creped, my once thick hair
stubble on a razed field. Each of his portraits catalogues
the horror anew—age spots, puffiness, wrinkles, balding,
fear, rheumy eyes. Each one bellows: I am staring down
the worst of it and still, Homo Faber, I create. In a world
that worships youth, what is more gruesome than an old
woman—unsexed, blown? Yet, like Albright, I would
revisit my demise in endless variations, even as he did,
until his final days, reduced and reduced until all that
remained were his fierce eyes. Perhaps my poems will
distill me, godlike, to a single word, my own yod-hey-vav-hey.
Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon, who learned to love art from her artist parents. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, among them: 3 elements, 13 Myna Birds, Anti-Heroin Chic, Dream Fever Magazine, Dying Dahlia Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Free State Review, MAW, Rat's Ass Review, Rattle, Red Paint Hill Publishing, Referential, Serving House Journal, The Cape Rock, The Literary Nest, The Yellow Chair, Timberline Review, vox poetica, and Vanilla Sex Magazine. She welcomes contact from her readers.
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