Faced With a Mirror of Words
Gregg Williard

There’s a horizontal line under my mouth and across my chin that looks like a scar and comes, I think, from tensing facial muscles to push open my right nostril, usually blocked by some congenital design flaw in the inner structure of my nose, which, from the outside, has a peculiar downward jut at the tip that makes others think it has been broken (I’m pleased to hear from a fight) and makes me think, when seen in profile with two mirrors, of the distinctive bend in the wing of the German Stuka dive bomber that strafed and harried the fleeing British troops on the shores of Dunkirk in W.W.II, scenes of which fill a novel that I’m reading now by Ian MacEwen, called Atonement, reminding me that whenever I look at myself, my face, my life as a face, I see stories and flesh, sometimes stories in flesh, sometimes machines in flesh or flesh as machines while believing that surely I, we, are selves somewhere inside our bodies, behind our faces, but also in some sense formed, maybe strafed and harried by forces outside of us that leave scars, and that some of the most powerful are industrial, political, ideological, corporate, while understanding that forces inside of us are just as powerful, and for some people more formative, than the externally imposed or impressed ones, and that my face, the story of any face, really, may be a narrative contest, or a contested narrative, between inner and outer forces, the subjective versus the objective, the body (and face) as a thing among things, the meat machine versus the soul or the spirit or the mind or the ghost in it, swimming under our cheeks and behind our eyes, or punching out our lights from outside with eurekas of grace and mayhem, or from both directions at once, like rival engineers or sculptors, one tunneling and blasting from within, the other weathering and tanning and stropping and treating as some hide might be treated, from without, or maybe my face as the mediation between the two, like how my straight thin lips were written by genetically encoded adjustments to my ancestor’s Northern European chill and dark and, maybe, (in a mysterious transmogrification of spirit to flesh) my mouth shaped by the social/theological chill and dark of Protestantism and also, in this incarnation, by something that happened in me or to me around seventh grade, before which my lips were so bright and wet and full that I was accused of wearing lipstick, resulting in frenzies of rubbing and wiping to make them a grim, dry, manly, stoic slash, and in succeeding pursuing women with full lips, then Jewish women with full lips, and then short Jewish women with full lips, and then athletic short Jewish women with full lips, as if I wanted to find the full red lips of my early life’s trajectory before it was changed, maybe deflected or bent, like light in a prism, or the angle of the Stuka’s wing, from a face and body that was all vivid light and athleticism before sports taught it to squint and shun the sun, and to lose myself in books to escape education, and on to 30 years hard drinking and bitter laughter that might have spooned hollows in my cheeks, carved lines around my eyes and across my forehead a little deeper than they otherwise might have been, and darkened the shadows under my blue eyes that, against ginger white hair and white skin no longer show a blue eyed face but a face with twin piercings of BB-shot black, like (as some might quip) two piss holes in the snow, or like little pokes in the pupils of a huge Russian icon or Japanese animae eyes that hold me in a thousand watt stare of blank consolation for my dye cast life mask of paper skin harried by ink and bent ghosts.

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