The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Troy Jollimore

Willem Dafoe's Face

 

Willem Dafoe walks to the corner bodega
with Willem Dafoe’s face splashed all over
the front part where the face usually goes,
peering through the well-designed eye-holes to scrutinize

the sausagelike faces of his fellow urban adventurers,
the way he does every morning, the way you do
every morning, your face out there like Christmas decorations
for everyone to see, like you don’t give two shits

what they think. After all, you can see their faces too.
Which doesn’t, somehow, make it come out even.
The human face, that encyclopedia
of longing and vulnerability. He nods

to a heavyset man who is stealthily browsing
cans of precooked luncheon meat, who started it
by nodding at him, who has maybe and maybe
not recognized him from Light Sleeper

or The English Patient or (yikes) Speed 2: Cruise
Control
, two faces acknowledging each other,
not snarling, not biting, civilization emerging
victorious once again in the canned foods aisle.

Orson Welles, now he had a face.
You’d give your right arm for Orson Welles’s face.
He would have, too. Even at his worst,
rejected by Hollywood, The Magnificent

Ambersons lying in hacked-up pieces
at the bottom of the ocean, he must have been thinking
to himself, at least I’ve still got my beautiful
goddamned face. His face and his voice, two

eternal beauties. But really, what’s worse than
popping the wrong expression into the wrong
conversational slot? Like smiling a goofy fat
smile while your friend describes his sister’s

bone marrow treatments? Moments like that
make you wish you didn’t have a face. Or at least
that you could leave your face at home in a drawer
sometimes, and walk around just being the person

you actually are, like you believed in such
a thing. Like anyone does. But you’d never
let yourself say that, who’d believe it anyway,
coming out of that thing you call a mouth?


Troy Jollimore

Field of Dead Sunflowers

 

Something the gods have left behind,
something created to be disowned,
a place of purgation for wearied minds

where thoughts can be cleared of their sentiment,
hearts wrung roughly out like cheap sponges, a spot
a child might seek, having left behind

the walls and the windows it knows, to wander
and wring its songs free of their soapy sop.
Somewhere a flight of charred starlings might stop

and make landing, to perch like scarecrow-heads,
sun-scorched sentinels bored backwards by flight,
burnt free of the tiresome desire to soar

through celluloid-bright cerulean light.
Somewhere the disaster you make of your life
can be spoken through silence and, if understanding

requires more kindness than your gods can muster,
somewhere an approximation of peace
might settle on you like the grainy white powder

shat out of the back of a groaning crop-duster.

 

 

 

TROY JOLLIMORE's most recent collection of poetry, Syllabus of Errors, was chosen by the New York Times as one of the best poetry books of 2015. His previous poetry books are At Lake Scugog (2011) and Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry for 2006. He teaches philosophy at California State University, Chico, and is the author of two philosophical works, Love’s Vision and On Loyalty. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

 

 

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