I HAVE HAD TO LEARN TO LIVE WITH MY FACE
You see me alone tonight.
My face has betrayed me again,
the garage mechanic who promises to fix my car
and never does.
that my friends tell me is so full of character;
I have hated for so many years;
I have made an angry contract to live with
though no one could love it;
my face that I wish you would bruise and batter
and destroy, napalm it, throw acid in it,
so that I might have another
or be rid of it at last.
I drag peacock feathers behind me
to erase the trail of the moon. Those tears
I shed for myself,
sometimes in anger.
There is no pretense in my life. The man who lives with me
must see something beautiful,
like a dark snake coming out of my mouth,
or love the tapestry of my actions, my life/this body, this
face, they have nothing to offer
but angry insistence, their presence.
I hate them,
want my life to be more.
Hate their shadow on even my words.
I sell my soul for good plumbing
and hot water,
I tell everyone;
and my face is soft,
a feathering of snow
cold black leather coat
which is night.
my face against the chilly
of your back.
Learning to live with what you’re born with is the process,
the making of a life.
And I have not learned happily
to live with my face,
that Diane which always looks better on film
than in life.
I sternly accept this plain face,
and hate every moment of that sternness.
I want to laugh at this ridiculous face
of lemon rinds
and vinegar cruets
of unpaved roads
and dusty file cabinets
of the loneliness of Wall Street at night
and the desert of school on a holiday
but I would have to laugh alone in a cold room
Prefer the anger
that at least for a moment gives me a proud profile.
Always, I’ve envied
of the world. I’ve watched
a fish that swam through the net
because I was too small
but remained alone
in deep water because the others were caught
It is so painful for me to think now,
to talk about this; I want to go to sleep and never wake up.
But self-pity could trail us all, drag us around the bottom of
shoes like squashed snails so that
we might never fight/ and it is anger I want now, fury,
to direct at my face and its author,
to tell it how much I hate what it’s done to me,
to contemptuously, sternly, brutally even, make it live with itself,
look at itself every day,
and remind itself
that reality is
learning to live with what you’re born with,
noble to have been anything but defeated,
that pride and anger and silence will hold us above beauty,
though we bend down often with so much anguish for
a little beauty,
a word, like the blue night,
the night of rings covering the floor and glinting
into the fire, the water, the wet earth, the age of songs,
guitars, angry busloads of etched tile faces, old gnarled
tree trunks, anything with the beauty of wood, teak, lemon,
I lost my children because I had no money, no husband,
I lost my husband because I was not beautiful,
I lost everything a woman needs, wants,
before I became a woman,
my face shimmering and flat as the moon
with no features.
I look at pictures of myself as a child.
I looked lumpy, unformed, like a piece of dough,
and it has been my task as a human being
to carve out a mind, carve out a face,
carve out a shape with arms & legs, to put a voice inside,
and to make a person from a presence.
And I don’t think I’m unique.
I think a thousand of you, at least, can look at those old photos,
reflect on your life
and see your own sculpture at work.
I have made my face as articulate as I can,
and it turns out to be a peculiar face with too much
bone in the bridge of the nose, small eyes, pale lashes,
thin lips, wide cheeks, a rocky chin,
But it’s almost beautiful compared to the sodden mass of dough I started out with.
I wonder how we learn to live
with our faces?
They must hide so much pain,
so many deep trenches of blood,
so much that would terrorize and drive others away, if they
could see it. The struggle to control it
articulates the face.
And what about those people
With elegant noses and rich lips?
What do they spend their lives struggling for?
Am I wrong I constantly ask myself
to value the struggle
more than the results?
Or only to accept a beautiful face
if it has been toiled for?
Tonight I move alone in my face;
want to forgive all the men whom I’ve loved
who’ve betrayed me.
After all, the great betrayer is that one I carry around each day,
which I sleep with at night. My own face,
angry building I’ve fought to restore
imbued with arrogance, pride, anger and scorn.
To love this face
would be to love a desert mountain,
a killer, rocky, water hard to find, no trees anywhere/
perhaps I do not expect anyone
to be strange enough to love it;
-Diane Wakoski, 1970