Portrait, bust

Poem by Susan de Sola

I layer clay and hope he’ll coalesce,
begin to plane his jaw and hone his cheek,
his heavy brow, his nose’s prow. Distress.
His ear is wrong, I slice it off.  I see

a flaw, pry out his eye, the whole not right.
Relief to stroke his cheek or flatten down
odd locks of hair, but still not him. Too slight,
and mean. It seems he now returns my frown.

A man, and yet not mine, this portrait bust.
He stares out coolly from Swiss mountain mud.
I see just why it’s failed, and fail it must,
this blend of burial earth and stony blood.

I love the living head, the breathing face.
I fear the sculpture that would take his place.


American Arts Quarterly, Winter 2013, Volume 30, Number 1