Sitting for Bruce

1 Prepared

This flat wood, covered with its squares of gold,
Through which my blurred reflection comes and goes,
Will one day hold my image; it will hold
The face I cannot see up to the world.
For now, it keeps its secret, only shows
Across its bright gold-leaf some scars and flaws
And one thin streak of red, an open wound,
From which I’m told my portrait will emerge.

Till then this waiting space will hold its charge;
The strong potential of its golden ground,
A light behind my back, before my mind,
A blaze beneath the sill of what I am,
That tells me I am always on the verge,
Of something that I haven’t yet become.

2 Abraded

Bruce Herman takes a sander to the gold
To shape my likeness in the clay and dust
His hands are bleeding as he takes a hold
Of this abrasion, for he knows he must
Unmake the thing he’s made to make it better.
He opens out and flays the gold and clay
Unveiling shapes and painting with the sander,
I see my face half-formed, and look away.

He takes me back to all that grinds me down
Strips my defenses, leaving me exposed,
I flinch back from the form he has disclosed
As though I had been opened to the bone
He is not finished. Now he paints through pain
The subtle strokes that make me whole again.

3 Finished

For I am incomplete, my mirrors show
No more than flaws and fragments as they pass,
The selves I lose, that mock me as they go,
And leave me trembling by the darkened glass.
I do not see the face that once I had
Nor can I see the one I will become,
Flitting between a shadow and a shade
I was, I was, I whisper, not I Am.

And then comes One who calls me from my ruin,
As from this bricolage of dust and stain,
He works to build what I have broken down,
Outfaces me, and finds my face again,
Just as this artist summons me to see
How grief and joy and time might finish me.