Face: Excerpt

Claustrophobia is failure of projection: my face collapses into its grave. They rolled me into the MRI, panic-bulb in hand, an IV of valium in my arm. My adrenalin swarmed the valium Ali-on-Liston; I hit the panic button in three seconds flat.

The rush-hour trains were worse: a hundred faceless people pressed against me—divorced from their faces, too focused, too dense: claustrophobia the only honest reaction in a crowd.

“…a hundred faceless people…” no, not faceless. Their faces were far ahead of them, high-beams on home, projected far from the train, or solar sails, dragging them beyond the density of flesh; whereas my face had gone back into its bud.

All outward forms are the agony of what they mask; and one is always mocked by one’s own backside. If we are tragedy forward, we are farce from behind.

John Cassavetes’ Faces: read the actors’ eyes, the director said, not the dialogue—which was a vectoring of faces, their persistence through the tunnel of the film, out toward daylight. There are no deep truths, but there are brighter spots, sunnier days, a return to color as staple, not spice. Identity shimmers like spit in the film; the lighting is uncosmetic, uncosmic; everything is an interior; rooms are “inside” squared – the imploded tesseract of “inside,” walls that look on their windows as Gabriels of expulsion, ceilings veined and sweaty, like foreheads.

The Countess’ captive has learned to live for the theater of the key-hole. Optically, we might say, he’s become a woman and receives the nightly images as thrusts upon his visual cortex.

Monsieur Robertson, turning out the lights, locking the doors, reveals the cambric screens he has painted with our own deliria, but the blood-drained faces of the audience were in fact the only spirits in the room.

Robert Lunday is the author of Mad Flights (Ashland Poetry Press, 2002). A former Stegner, FAWC, and St. Albans Fellow, he lives in Bastrop, TX with his wife, four horses, three dogs, and one duck. He teaches, mostly online, for Houston Community College