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The Face of the Poet After Seamus Heaney’s photo in the New York Times, 31 August 2013 The nose more like a trowel than a pen Centers the poet’s countenance Ready to sniff out the truth and close to the ground, Rounded and oval, savage and noble. The lips can break either way: slightly open, oyster-like, […]

The Face of the Poet

by PETER LINEBAUGH

The Face of the Poet

After Seamus Heaney’s photo in the New York Times, 31 August 2013

The nose more like a trowel than a pen

Centers the poet’s countenance

Ready to sniff out the truth and close to the ground,

Rounded and oval, savage and noble.

The lips can break either way: slightly open, oyster-like,

Or, heart-shaped, to utter words with Ulster percussive sounds

Particular to the parish and field of the locale.

This mouth shaped like a bone bow carried by Scythian horsemen

Ever ready to spring arrows of surprise, unloose darts of inwit;

Its upper lip dip has comic possibilities of a sneeze.

The forehead and cheekbone worn smooth upon the cranium;

Arched eye-brows topping the dark pools of vision unprotected by lashes

Razor-wire upon the fences of surveillance cameras extinguished.

The coiffure has a touch of the barbarian

The unscissored tuft as an anticolonial glib.

Dig here for the soul of man, the face might

Gently purr, quietly tell the virtues, or wince, weep, or keen

Right there on our spoken earth.

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. The London Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is the Magna Carta Manifesto. He can be reached at:plineba@yahoo.com