Face: Excerpt

The removal of nature’s effects: not a darker nature, not the harshness of nature that we wear clothes and build cities against, that we air-condition, so the brain can float around the room like a moth. No, it’s something in the landscape, somewhere in the wake we leave behind us as we travel swiftly through: we make it by forcing it into our blind spots.

Think, again, of the painter from life, who must either trust to his hand (as a well-trained apprentice, or better still, a rival) or turn to his hand on the canvas and go, for a second or so, on mere faith that the model is there, hasn’t changed, isn’t sticking her tongue out. That instant of blindness is where everything comes from.

For painting young faces, Cennini recommended egg yolk from town hens. For old faces, country hens were best. Tempera is a vivid flesh-dream, a congealing film flashing eternal daylight in the villas and chapels. Lizards sunbathe on the stones, moths and small children flit in the windows: so many paintings of the instant, lost for lack of an egg.

Stand in the field and try to look at yourself from several yards away. Your profile, in suppressing its other side, holds the want for depth in thrall. On and on you’ll journey, never leaving your own flatness.

I’m looking at the Yde girl, mummified but still slightly impatient, still a mood there, her face reduced to a single, closed eyelid of waiting, still the map on skin delicately balanced between earth-work and leather, the flicker of a thought slowed down to the speed of loam and season.

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