Portrait of a Young Man

 

I’ve seen it – I shamefully catch glimpses

Before you turn. The head, hung; and the fringe

Concealing lost eyes. Oh, that I have seen it.

 

You haunt the room like a portrait. The colours

In unsteady strokes, give the candle to your face

An uncanny effect. At times I fear to broach it,

 

That matter of the mind. It is the brooding

Unpainted black of the unobserved background,

While you pose unwilling in the midst of it.

 

It makes a still life of you – of us all.

Even the flowers in their vase hold still.

Even your hand, and your graceful demeanour

 

And the perfection of everything: these are lines

Painted in. The face does not change for me.

See how a gilt frame is a remarkable cage.

 

How to draw life, then – how instead, to trace

Your true vertices; bring tones to that lost face,

Or through soft strokes, that palour to assuage;

 

And if for a second, I can draw a smile

Onto your picture, however strange or slight,

For me that is the finest work of art.

 

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