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

Image of almonds pouring from a glass bowl.

Reina María Rodríguez: Poems in Translation

REINA MARÍA RODRÍGUEZ
Naturally, Flaubert’s parrot / could not be called Chucho, / his author wouldn’t stick him / with a name like that. / From which follows the importance of names. / But in the stories last night / —the reconstruction of a postcard / which we were creating...

Image of hill, river, and houses.

Joss

PATRICIA LIU
Paper is thin. In the beginning, still billows in the wind, still petal-like, still grounded in this world / of living. The incense is the only material that translates the viscera to mist. Early, the fog has not yet / lifted, and we move through the white drip as if through total darkness. Fish lost in the deep under- / water.

poetry feature image

March 2021 Poetry Feature: Sylvie Durbec

SYLVIE DURBEC
I still don’t know how to type a tilde on a computer keyboard / when writing the name of a Spanish or Portuguese writer I love. / Nor do I know what poetry is. / I don’t know whether we need it. Or not. / And what we really need here. / Elsewhere, water, bread, milk.