Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saving Face

I catch at eyes on the street
and they dart away, except once I held
too long the eyes of a dapper man,
who smiled too winningly.

Counselling people, I can look at them
without being expected to make a pass.
With my wife, often, it is permitted
just to look. With friends across restaurant tables
looking at each other is not strictly forbidden,
though always after an acceptable instant
one must ask (meaning "Is something wrong?"),

Why is it better to let two sets of eyes wander
in intricately interlaced choreography
from table to food to napkins, mine sweeping
(mine-sweeping indeed) past the face
three feet away only when it faces
elsewhere, catching eyes only a casual second,
as if eyes were slippery to the touch
of eyes? Why is it better, when eyes meet,
that inner gaze be elsewhere?

Even the dog knows that when I am giving orders
I am head of the pack and must not be faced.
People who look right at you
are about to lie to you, on the make, eerie
(Rasputins, pod people, zombies)--Oh
there is no good reason ever for eyes
to fix upon eyes. Movies dote on closeups,
pornographically huge luminous eyes
harmlessly sating our cravings.

Not that we are our eyes,
but they are where, craving raw light,
we've let ourselves be located--what could be
more dangerous? They've become our signature,
identity badges in the swarming lobbies
of the Humanoid Convention--the eyes
or other cherished features:
a mustache, "striking" cheekbones, the migraine
that somehow justifies all failures,

not much to be, but better than a billfold
crammed with credit cards, a sex organ,
a gun, a compendium of opinions
and all the other things we become
when we've lost, even, face.

by Dean Blehert

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