The Face

By Franz Wright 1953–2015 Franz Wright
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)

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Poet Franz Wright 1953–2015

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, Relationships, Living, The Body

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Franz  Wright


Franz Wright was born in Vienna, Austria and grew up in the Northwest, the Midwest, and California. He earned a BA from Oberlin College in 1977. His collections of poetry include The Beforelife (2001); God’s Silence (2006); Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004; Wheeling Motel (2009); Kindertotenwald (2011); and (2013). In his precisely crafted, lyrical poems, Wright addresses the subjects of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Relationships, Living, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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