Portrait of a Man

Image of a painting

“Portrait of a Man,” ca. 1470. Hans Memling (ca. 1430-1494). The Frick Collection.

By JEFFREY HARRISON

Hans Memling, ca. 1470 (Frick Collection)

I know this man,
or feel I do,
or think I could—
as though his face
effaced the centuries
between us,

his brown eyes
guileless,
frankly wise,
his gaze, though
slightly to the side,
somehow direct.

Though proud enough,
and prosperous,
to have his portrait
painted by a master,
his dress is plain,
a dark tunic,

the painter
having left out
any markers
of trade, achievement,
or rank that might
define him,

leaving him free
to be simply
a man, or
simply to be
(even his name
has fallen away),
the only note
of ornament
the green epaulets
of distant landscape
that seem to rest
on his shoulders.

[Purchase Issue 18 here.]

 

Jeffrey Harrison’s sixth book of poetry, Between Lakes, will be published by Four Way Books in fall 2020. His previous book, Into Daylight, won the Dorset Prize, and Incomplete Knowledge was runner-up for the Poets’ Prize. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and journals, as well as in Best American Poetry, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and other anthologies.

Portrait of a Man

Related Posts

july 2020 poetry feature

July 2020 Poetry Feature: Steven Leyva and Elizabeth Scanlon

STEVEN LEYVA
Get down to the smallest birthright / I cannot claim: say beignets / and doesn’t the stutter of hot oil start / to sizzle the small plates of memory? / Faces powdered with sugar, no thought / to whose ancestors cut which cane, sing / a hymn of “mmm, mmm, mmm.”

Illustration of dolphin

July 2020 Poetry Feature: Loren Goodman

LOREN GOODMAN
In these last hours / Of the Passover Seder / It is said by the higher / Chasidic Scholars that time / Loses its essence and that / We are at least once, with / The help of memory (at this / Time “even the future can be / Remembered”) able to defeat / It. Something to do / With the wine.

Skyline cropped

Goddamn

MORIEL ROTHMAN-ZECHER
The chunk of the ball / On the cracked blacktop / And our torsos so covered / In sweat nearby the sea / Swells and the smell seeps / Into our hair and the air / Turns into night all around us / And the pebbles of the ball / Still tickle our palms as smoke / Trickles into our lungs...