WITH A THOUSAND FACES

A wooden chin, bearded with red feathers
And plastered-on leaves from the wishfruit tree
And dangling knotted threads and dangling beads:
A forest for a face! World in a mask!

Long wooden cheeks with spiderweb blushes,
Sculpted dimples, jut-out lion’s-teeth spots
And fragments of bone, fragments of mirror
And glistening smeared hyena spittle:
First face, truer face! Reality mask!

Wide wooden brow, fringed with twigs and petals,
Crowned with crocodile skin and iron nails,
Nails hammered in hard by the strongest man
And breathed on by virgins. From the forehead
Two stag’s antlers rise and entwine and rise:
Face of all things! The seasons in a mask!

Clownish big ears for babies to laugh at,
Ears of the hero who rescued the moon!
Strengthen our boats, our houses, our borders.
Icons droop down from twin timber earlobes:
An ape’s middle-finger, a crow’s dried tongue.
And slots through which a leather strip can pass:
Away face! Question mask, life in a mask!

Seashell lips suck sickness out of the air.
Dogmouth and catmouth, voidmouth, cosmosmouth,
The bits we hate of the people we love
Tell us things we’ve pretended to not know;
Recall forgotten prisoners-of-war;
Answer the riddles posed upon our death.
Ground-down scorpions and goat’s bones as teeth:
A castle for a face! Art in a mask!

Hooked bulbous nose; triangular nostrils;
Swirls fingered with sea-foam and dirt upon
Animal-skin stained with animal-blood:
Make us all equally ugly and cruel!
Scare ghosts away, guide spirits safely off!
Appease storms! Deflect sorcerers’ curses
And let kindly imps infiltrate our midst.
Intervene in the inevitable:
Temple face! A mask for rain, for the crops!

Blank eyes, the eyes of everyone who’s died:
Oval egg eyes, grinning-slit terror eyes
With fine painted lashes and engraved tears,
Tears for the tree that had to fall for this;
For the future deaths of one’s descendents;
For the uninitiated, the blind.
Coloured rings radiate out from the eyes,
Infinity eyes! Make us a secret.
Unseen in full view of everybody:
God for a face! All the gods in a mask!

Synchronised-frenzy face! Praise mask, hunt mask:
To get us closer to the animal.
Family face, clan face, tribe face, world mask:
The sun brought to Earth, dreams dragged into day.
Origin face! Mask to mark our journey:
Stripes, scratches, crosses, wax, glue and ribbons.
A face to fix things! Strawman mask, war mask:
Paralyse foes for one fatal instant;
Force through to the land beyond the sunset;
Choose to reincarnate on our own terms.
Persistence face; this moment in a mask…