Saturday, November 6, 2010

I see a face

The beautiful portrait by Rahina I posted yesterday coincides with something I’ve been thinking about lately. When we’re courageous enough and curious enough to study someone’s face, what is it that we really see? Rahina’s painting is one eloquent answer, the more so in that it strikes so deep to the fleeting adventure of life and memory. That I could appear this way to anyone, accurate in detail and yet transformed as in a dream, I regard as a gift and a miracle. But such is the glory of art. And so it is that we are all its subjects, and are revitalized and transformed in its presence.

In the half-lit damp I see a face

In the half-lit damp I see a face —
that which remains after storm and smoke
have passed its way, then drifted on.

What becomes a man,
are the little things he does;
what defines him,
is all he loves.

In the half-lit damp I see a face —
so much older than it was,
an archeology of thoughts and dreams.

Beyond my touch, it records
the evening cry of birds,
the scent of dusk,
the beating of wings.


♥ Raven Rose ♥ said... beautiful and true are your words. The face of a baby, a child are beautiful in their innocence. The young adult's face is beautiful because they are living life and full of adventure. The face of the aging is beautiful in it's every line and wrinkle. They have laughed, cried and worried for so many years that these older faces are beautiful in the stories they tell...

Transcend Designs said...

Don't know how I missed that work from yesterday,
but how great it is!

And now an amazing poetic work of art
to complement it perfectly!

Somehow they need to be hung together!

Be well William!

: )

Woman in a Window said...

I've been thinking on this too, William. It is astounding to me how little of us visually defines us, just a series of lines, really. But somehow it is the energy of all that we do, how we think and behave, what we engage in, that pulses perceptible only by feeling, outside of those lines. At first I thought it peculiar that so many people are driven to capture your image in paint or by photo. But it is not your image at all that we are driven to witness, and not really capture at all, but you, your energy, the man himself, and that is because for words that escape me, and perhaps the ideas escape me too, you represent to us something very precious, hope.

It is a beautiful rendering, once again.


rahina q.h. said...

Dear William,
i rarely ever share the thoughts that go through my head when i paint: it is always hugely personal and emotional: a private dialogue layered in oils..... only thing i will say is that behind everything, i saw a youthfulness i have seen only in a child's face; a nose, too perfect to paint... and of course the eyes which looked out acceptingly of me.... all part of the 'archeology of thoughts and dreams'.

finally, the comments left on my blog are evidence of how much you have touched people's lives through your writing...

and this poem is powerful, a piece of a after reading the poem, i thought there is a piece missing from your jigsaw, and i hold it in the form of an attempt at a portrait that needs a voice: with the poem and in your home it will...if you are willing to accept it...

William Michaelian said...

And what a wonderful day this is. Awhile ago, just before we left for the grocery store, I read these comments to my wife, and then we looked at each other, and into the mystery of the moment unfolding as reflected in our eyes, which we both know so well and yet which never fail to surprise — to find good fortune alive and well here in this room.

Thank you, Raven Rose. The human face is indeed an unfailing map of the passing years.

Brad, thank you, too, for seeing the painting and poem together in such a fine light.

Erin, when words and ideas escape you, they leave magic in their wake. I’m deeply grateful for each and every one, and the heart and observation they convey.

Rahina, I don’t know what to say. First of all, the portrait is much, much more than an “attempt.” It’s a beautiful work of art that stands alone. I know, from reading your blog, the high standards you set for yourself, and that you have destroyed a number of canvases along the way. I was afraid, almost, that this one might evaporate before my eyes and suffer the same fate. I must say, if that had happened, it would have been the loss of part of myself — not like a loss but the loss. And all this within just a few hours of your sharing it with the world. The portrait has a voice; you have given it one through your talent and grace. And yet, what have we done? This poem, which is itself, and this painting, which is itself, have somehow come together of their own accord, almost like young loves while their parents are unaware. And it’s all the more poignant, because the poem has no physical presence in this world, no arms and legs to herald its beating heart, while your painting cannot be denied in that it can be touched and moved and held. As you can see, I still don’t know what to say — except that I am willing to accept it, and that having it here with me as part of my daily life would be a dream come true. Is it the right thing for me to have it? I don’t know. It is, I think, if that is your wish. At the same time, I want to share it with the world. Well — maybe we already have, and maybe that sharing has just begun. Because with any luck, the painting and the poem will outlive us both. They do have their lives to lead, don’t they?

Conrad DiDiodato said...


I think you'd appreciate the philosophical writings of Emmanuel Levinas. For this great Jewish thinker the 'face' is a call for embracing the other in love and compassion.

William Michaelian said...

Hello, Conrad. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure it was you who mentioned Levinas in this connection before. The article in Wikipedia is familiar, and it reminds me that I’ve yet to follow through. Thanks for your note.

Woman in a Window said...

Oh, I like to think of you and your wife on the front door's carpet, a hand on the door knob, about to enter the outside world, for that is how it happens, isn't it? And there, stopping and considering, and receiving, as you do. How wonderful.


Two Tigers said...

Excellent words, William, and Rahina's portrait is no mere canvas but a living thing. It is wonderful that your words and her image can now join together and befriend and enhance each other. There are so many things that accumulate around us and inside us to make up who we are and how we are perceived...that "portrait" will never be complete I believe, nor would any of us want it to be, but some of us are lucky to have people around us to contribute their impressions and talents and make that portrait richer. That is a beautiful thing. Thanks for sharing it.

William Michaelian said...

As it happens, Erin, a few of my favorite memories revolve around friends and loved ones standing in their doorways, some in greeting, some in the act of farewell. And here you’ve placed us, thoughtful and expectant, at the edge of a welcoming world. Thank you.

You’re welcome, Gabriella, and thank you too. This is exactly how artwork grows, from hand to hand and mind to mind. And it is how we grow, if we haven’t built too hard a shell around ourselves.