The Man Whose Face Was Stolen by Clif Mason


The Man Whose Face Was Stolen | By Clif Mason

         A man woke to find his face
                                                        on a gold doubloon,
                     & then it was his no more,
but was exchanged in a white water river
                                             of dream & contempt,
each person who touched it
by the long trail of barterings
                                             & dissemblings,
                             & misgivings.

         To get what it must
was the first & foremost urge
                                of woodchuck
                                                        & woodpecker
                    & of the toad
                                 with the brilliantly elastic tongue,
rolled up in its mouth
                                 like a window blind. 

        The snail,
                                the quail,
the town’s thousand feral cats:
                                each a guileless opportunist,
not one with an ounce
                                            of human subterfuge,
                     not one with a shred of human obliquity.

         Everyone knew the man’s stolen face
but no one knew him.
        & when he begged them
                                                       to return his face,
                    they bruised his chest
                               & broke his hands. 

         Other people went to work
                                                                   & got married
                                             & had children,
         & pursued their ever-
retreating dreams,
                                            in moments of quiet clarity,
                     their grand goals were becoming
                                 more transparent,
more improbable & unlikely.
        His life was fixed
                                                     & unchanging.
       Soon no one remembered him.

         Yet everyone wanted
the coin bearing his face.
        When friends gathered,
                                                        they told stories of it.
       When lovers met,
                                they saw its gleaming silver face.
         Children dreamt of it.
         Old men & women spoke of it
with their dying breaths.
        It inspired poets
                                        & mathematicians,
                    homeless printers & magicians.
         Inmates held it in their hearts
during their long ordeal of crime & time
                            & parents passed it without thinking
                    to their children.

        One night the man dreamed
                                                         the most incredible 
& extravagant of dreams:
                                             His face came back to him.
        He could feel it
                                 & see it in the mirror.
        When he woke,          
the rest of the world
                                            could not see him at all.
        He had completely ceased to exist
                                                                 among them.

About the Author:

Clif Mason lives in Bellevue, Nebraska, with his wife, a visual artist. He is the author of one collection, Knocking the Stars Senseless (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), and three chapbooks: The Book of Night & Waking (won the Cathexis Northwest Press Chapbook Prize), Self-portraits in Which I Do Not Appear (Finishing Line Press), and From the Dead Before (Lone Willow Press). His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and he has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Rwanda, Africa. He also writes magical realist and fantasy fiction. Twitter: @mason_clif