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 the book cover of The Morning Line, featuring a man wearing a hat.

September 2021 Poetry Feature: David Lehman’s The Morning Line

DAVID LEHMAN
You can pick horses on the basis of their names / and gloat when Justify wins racing’s Triple Crown / or when, in 1975, crowd favorite Ruffian, “queen / of the century,” goes undefeated until she breaks down / in a match race with Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.

Bogota

Translation: Poems by María Paz Guerrero

MARÍA PAZ GUERRERO
Time fills with holes / and puts the scarce body / into one of them // It covers its skeleton of wind / so the current / doesn’t rub against its prickly outside // The air would split into smithereens / if it were touched by the spines // It doesn’t seek to become cuts on the cheek