Lines On My Face

By J. D. McClatchy b. 1945
Decades now of looking back at it—
in some old satellite’s rearview mirror, say—
has something to show beyond the folds and feeders,
the volumes of magma risen into native rock
or the buried flow of old fires cooling
in ocean beds. The damage has been memorized.
Tool marks left by loose doubts dragged
across a certainty. Tongues of river
sediment slumped but still flickering
in the eye. And how pale the surfaces are!

From miles above what even to others is familiar,
the erosion—tears that freeze and crack
the heart, small habits a wind blasts
against whatever’s exposed—seems apparent:
all’s worn down, weathered, notched, seeping,
yet eerily polished, as if at last defined.
Your map of me? Let your pencil trace
the old quarries and splintered outcrops,
let it analyze the faults, describe their throes,
let it reveal how the light is laid over them all.

J. D. McClatchy, “Lines On My Face” from Ten Commandments. Copyright © 1998 by J. D. McClatchy. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Ten Commandments (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)

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Poet J. D. McClatchy b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Growing Old, The Body

 J. D. McClatchy


J.D. McClatchy’s poetry is marked by formal adeptness, lyrical control and a wide range of influences—including classical literature, music, and opera. Praised for their polished, erudite surfaces as well as the depths of thought, philosophy, and feeling beneath the facade, McClatchy treats subjects as diverse as Japanese history, the body, and his own autobiography. Often depicting the unsettling and disturbing realities that . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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