Prosopagnosia

Poem by Miranda J. Stinson

—Gr. prosopon, face + agnosia, not knowing

 

Now that she’s lost her looks, he feels it’s safe

to say he never loved her for her face.

He has a condition, you see, and she could be,

above the neck, her sister or the dentist

or her maid of honor. She knew this

when she married him, but still she frets—

the wrinkle down her forehead has become

a chasm into which her eyebrows sink;

her birthmark’s sprouted a hair too short to tweeze,

too long to leave alone. And foolishly,

he says it makes no difference. She could be

the bank teller, that woman on TV,

the midwife who delivered their first child.

That woman was a blonde back then, he thought,

but people change (she may be gray now, too),

and otherwise, they look about the same.

“We look the same?” she says, and then—                                                   

she has suspected it for years—“Am I the same?”

She is scowling in the mirror, unwrinkling

her ruined forehead with her fingers,

but to no avail. She will not be consoled.

 

“You are light fingers and firm hands,” he says,

lifting them from her face. “And you are elbows

in whose hollows I have placed my head

year upon year. And when we met—remember?—

it was your shoulders I was longing for,

the way they floated toward your neck in pleasure.”

(“It was shame,” she says. “I thought you’d never love

a girl who looked like I looked.”) “And your neck!

I swore then, and I swear today,

that in a sea of necks I’d know you by its curve.

My wife.” And wisely, pressing her to him,

he turns her from the mirror, and they stand

wrinkle to wrinkle, face to furrowed face.

 

American Arts Quarterly, Summer 2015, Volume 34, Number 3