I passed him by at first. From the photograph
Peered sepia eyes, blindered, unappeased
From a lair of brows and beard: one not amazed
At anything, as if to have looked enough
Then turned aside worked best for him—as if
Night vision was the discipline that eased
The weight of what he saw. A man’s gaze posed
Too long in the sun goes blank; comes to grief.
That face could be a focus for this back room,
For pack-rat papers strewn as if in rage,
Fond notes unread: each wary eye a phial
Unstopped to let huge Melville out, to calm
The sea of pages; Melville in older age:
The grown man’s sleepy defiance of denial.
Stephen Sandy, “Photo of Melville; Back Room, Old Bookstore” from The Thread. Copyright © 1998 by Stephen Sandy. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.
Source: The Thread
(Louisiana State University Press, 1998)