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My Face?

My Face

Can you see my face,

framed by stringless guitar,

button-less shirt,

skin black as tar?

 

Can you see my face

sitting in daddy’s lap,

wondering who you are?

 

What’s the flash?

 

Can you see my face

near the heart I trust?

What you fear?

Why you here?

Why a camera to your eyes and not a tissue?

 

What’s the flash?

Does it whiten my face;

sweeten your taste?

 

Can you see my face?

Not my country,

not this picture hanging on your wall

for your cheap martini talk;

African souveniers,

fake tears,

and framed check stubs.

 

Can you see my face,

hear my daddy’s guitar,

my song, cheetah’s purr in the background,

the stench of empty jars,

my home?

 

My graveyard.

 

Can you see my face?

I’m black because I wear death.

 

Why are you …?

 

Can you see my face,

   

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27 thoughts on “My Face?

  1. geoffpope says:

    Pleased to meet you, Henry, via d’Verse Poets’ Pub. I enjoyed reading your poem, especially the refrain. Here’s my critique:

    Title: I was taken in, particularly because of the question, and the striking image of the boy.

    S1,L2-3: Alliteration effective, and I like “stringless guitar” with no article; colloquial appeal
    S1,L3: Since you have “stringless” as one word, consider combining “button less”
    S1,L4: “tar” is striking

    S2: Great! Include a comma after “lap”

    S3: Perhaps change “What’s the flash?” to “What was that light?” or “What that light?”

    S4,L3-4: Again, as with not using an “a” before “stringless guitar” (making the narrator more realistic, colloquial), I really like that you left off the verbs
    S4,L5: Maybe instead of “camera,” use “metal”

    S5,L1: Instead of “What’s the flash?” maybe have “What was that flash?” or “What that flash?”
    S5,L2-3: Powerful

    S6,L4: Consider inverting “martini cheap”
    S6,L6-7: Strong

    S7,L4: Tremendous

    S8,L1: “My graveyard” — haunting, effective on a line of its own

    S9,L2: Consider cutting this line (potentially touchy re race)

    Last Stanza
    L2: Omit “or,” and initial cap “are” — a gripping line
    L3: Another outstanding question/statement
    L4: Change “you’re” to “your”?
    L4-5: Consider omitting both lines. I think ending with “Maybe I don’t get any older?” might be better.

    Looking forward to seeing what other readers/critiquers think.

    Respectfully,

    Geoff

    • Thank you, Geoff, for taking he time to give this piece such a thorough read. I will look at each item with care and thought.. I am curious though, what you think my purpose of write is. It would help me see if we are working on the same picture. It’s important for me to know if I communicated my purpose clearly enough to leave room for reader interpretation. I appreciate the kind words and will be working a revised version later today and I know I will be incorporating some of these suggestions. Thank you very much.

      • geoffpope says:

        Glad you were pleased with my comments/critique, Henry. I think the purpose of your piece is that most people don’t really look at a person — truly see someone — especially those of us who are in such a rush to pick up a camera/video/pen, etc. to “capture” the moment, when in actuality we don’t really care about the subject/soul right in front of us — possibly suffering enormously.

  2. Henry~
    Your message and vehicle are powerful. the poem flows and builds, encouraging the reader to question along with the narrator.
    Geoff did a great job of line-by-line crit; and I agree with his suggestion to end with “Maybe I don’t get any older?”
    I would also left indent the entire piece. The moving margin is more a distraction than addition to the piece.

    • I agree with your feeling of distraction, but I wanted the poem to be a distraction, a thorn in memory. It may have been too much though. I agree, it reads better flush left. And I will give that some great thought because I don’t want to loose a reader with over kill. Excellent point. Thank you.

  3. a suggestion i had to make is to end it with “can you see Me..?”
    otherwise i think it’s a frickin’ brilliant poem henry
    taking photographs instead or handing a tissue or something to eat..i like the point you work out with this…also think the questions work well…and good play on the camera flash with whitening the face.. your mind instead of you’re mind as geoff mentioned..i agree

    another suggestion…”near the only heart I trust?” i would cut “only” – otherwise it could get a bit over the top sentimental IMO – you manage to balance well here but it’s dangerous ground with such a topic. you could substitute heart and make it: near him, i trust. i would try to really not go even in the direction of approaching this heavy handed and because of this i think i would cut this whole stanza:
    Can you see my face,

    or, are you too busy wondering why I talk like I’m older?

    Maybe I don’t get any older?

    Or maybe you’re mind is talking for me,

    in my place …

    i think you don’t need it to make your point, i would rather go easy and give the people room to draw their own conclusions…make some points…give them a direction..and then let them think on…just my two cents henry…tell me what you think..i think you’re a brilliant poet, honestly

    • Thank you for your very kind words. I will most def look at the ending. I think I am mixing two messages and beating somebody up who isn’t even going to read this piece. I do not mind treading dangerous ground, but not to the detrament of making my point. I will consider all suggested and consider it a great honor you took time to read this piece. And thank you for recognizing my brilliance 🙂 jj

  4. Aida says:

    Hi Henry – great poetry here. The thing that kind of distracts me just a bit is the image. I think the poem is strong enough to do with just one pic. IMHO the pics interrupt the reader. Keeping only one image would help one focus on your great work, rather than on the image.
    Other than that, I too, agree with Claudia and think that you are a brilliant poet and this is a brilliant poem.
    One more thing, for me the word “only” in the verse “near the only heart I trust” doesn’t make the verse too sentimental, rather it shows the brutality of life. There’s so little to faith in life, and even less hearts to trust too/with.

    • Thank you for the kind words!!!!! I had wanted the photo to keep popping up to be a distraction so the poem itself, didn’t take attention away from its purpose. Perhaps I was trying to be too artsy in incorporating too many things. My revision will have just one photo and we will see if the piece still has its impact. Thank you once again.

  5. A wonderful poem. I like the questions you ask of us…I particularly like…”what’s the flash? Does it whiten my face: sweeten your taste?” and the following stanza. I agree with Claudia on ending with Can you see me… it personalises it a little more, also Aida with the pics, I’d only use one. I also wondered at the line “I’m black because I wear death.” It’s a strong line but it leaves an uneasy resonance, I think Geoff Pope suggested a re-think too! Just my thoughts, but as I said it is a poem that asks hard questions of us and that’s always needed. Great write! 🙂

  6. just jumped over to re-read and also thank you for your comment henry…think we’re all on a learning path.
    i love what you’ve done with your poem..it’s a brilliant piece

  7. I think your poem must be read in a “negritude” perspective… (I don’t know how to say the word in English.) By (apparently) showing the negative side, you are in fact making a strong statement about your own identity.

  8. WTF!? I don’t know if you asked for critiques on your work, Henry, but I have issues with people who want to change what you wrote. A poem is an emotional and personal write. No one can and should change that. Interpret, yes. Change, NO!

    Wow. I’m a bit shaken by the comments.

    Your write is rough. It’s harsh. And it is yours. Don’t change a damn word.

    • Thingy, it’s alright. The comments were solicited. Trust me writing is too important an organ in my body to have it tampered with when expressing myself. But I do like to know when I misspell a word 🙂 , or change my tense, or something structurally that would take attention from what I want to say. Thank you.

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