Is there a single thing in nature
that can approach in mystery
the absolute uniqueness of any human face, first, then
its transformation from childhood to old age—
We are surrounded at every instant
by sights that ought to strike the sane
unbenumbed person tongue-tied, mute
with gratitude and terror. However,
there may be three sane people on earth
at any given time: and if
you got the chance to ask them how they do it,
they would not understand.
I think they might just stare at you
with the embarrassment of pity. Maybe smile
the way you do when children suddenly reveal a secret
preoccupation with their origins, careful not to cause them shame,
on the contrary, to evince the great congratulating pleasure
one feels in the presence of a superior talent and intelligence;
or simply as one smiles to greet a friend who’s waking up,
to prove no harm awaits him, you’ve dealt with and banished all harm.
Franz Wright, “The Face” from Ill Lit: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Franz Wright. Reprinted with the permission of Oberlin College Press.
Source: Ill Lit: Selected and New Poems
(Oberlin College Press, 1998)