Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Culture of Saving Cindy's Face

Cindy Song has been missing since 2001
without a trace of butter, lavished instead

with talc and vapor, moisture from a bath
that Cathy Song spied, seeing her at Utamaro's girl
powdering her neck, where she is still elusive,

faceless, a universal back of head, hair piled
like fan-back chair reserved for company
that doesn't come, hair twisted in relaxed
whiplash curve

like blackened arroyo (her hair a twist of blackened
wicks). There is an ear that doesn't have to be ear
except the logic of its placement, for the lobe is not typical,
the flattened end of a lever that begins just under the chair,
that if lifted would also raise the chair, perhaps freeing
small birds though, if there, they've been at ease nesting
in the head, enjoying free range of wider shoulders
where wingspan became possible. Stone-faced, equally

at home in gardens that old cemeteries become whether or not left
alone, stone girls on pedestals, cracked wings shedding pebbles,
studding the ground with fossilized eyes. Possible source
of the powder with which she powders her neck, adds
substance; she is delaying decay as avalanche. I am also stalling

so as not to have to deal with the lack of face. If not respect,
it could be shyness, demure approach usually successful
that is at work, but I doubt it, since embarrassment or despair
about facelessness would supersede a classically feminine
approach. There was a need to classify

such births as ordinary for the Andaman Islands
with a falsely documented evolution that parallels genuine
independent evolutions in Madagascar. John Mandeville
had revelations of the gloriously grotesque: a precedent
established by John the Divine on Patmos,
so discrediting Mandeville for not having voyaged literally
doesn't wash, and arguably his small habit of hallucinogens
self-prescribed to fortify his weak constitution
was a vehicle which did transport him. More accepted

is an account of such a no-face birth in the fifteenth century
to a woman from whom such deformity was expected,
she'd been accused of every known sin,
and some secretly admired her (I assume) for creating new ones,
wondering what it might mean if her talent could be diverted
to the good, falling short of calling this diversion salvation.

The child didn't live
long, and the facial plane wasn't flat, but none of the features
fully popped out, as if they were retractable, and had retreated
into little bunkers.

To get at the mouth behind nonexistent lips
required pokes and surgical travels not then perfected; the cry,
some say the baby did cry, and left the midwife dead (the first honest
stab at cry--it really did pierce) was as from a well the baby
had fallen into, the face indeed seemed to have fallen, a typical
first-souffle face, eyes presumably could look at their own
orbital sockets and see some of the brain
as a cave of mammillated stalactites

though the baby, considered unfortunate and condemned,
born this way to emphasize lack of innocence and humanity
(which the lack of innocence should have confirmed),
the undescended testes no help in proving anything useful
to a case for consecrated burial, but no language,
nor did anyone else, for this condition
that was thought to be devoid of human condition,
give the thin evidence of forked tail insemination:
The skin that buried the face

though thin was more elastic than usual, a stretch
not prone to rupture yet more delicate than nylon stockings,
so it was easy to poke most anything through, a fatal
fingernail of failed midwifery right through that face
sealed in opalescence associated also with angels
though none had been captured for examination, and at
that point, there were not any more advanced alien studies
so the mother, though no one actually called her that,
couldn't claim forced copulation
with voyagers coming to earth to plant their seeds
--and where better than inside so much ego,
when relative fertility is compared? Also, better to resist

comparison that might have had some validity, realized
those too aware that Mary herself had given birth to something
that exceeded humanity, no gospel writers emphasizing
His normality
but rather how divinity manifested itself--even so, He did
resemble Mary, that's who everybody said He looked like.
This faceless child of Germany in truth perhaps better resembled
the facelessness of God who doesn't see with human eyes
or hear with human ears, & so forth, exceeding limits
of human sensing way more than bees, bats, dogs more on
His level of perception. That the exceptional child

did not live long was good, and perhaps arranged:
a smothering
although facial features were already smothered
by skin that already covered it like a sheet pulled
to cover up the dead with a less offensive muslin
easier on the narrow range of human sight.
It may have breathed, this strange boy whose name
was withheld for fear of cursing any other Hans.
Strange Boy
seemed name enough. But to call Utamaro's girl a victim

of facelessness isn't quite right; it seems she'd need just to turn
to show her face, except that it's detached, lays on the mirror
the faceless girl holds at an angle that could not catch
her own reflection, so the mirror's face comes from elsewhere
and the faceless girl looks beyond it:
the mirror is aimed over her shoulder,
the face in it is there as something on a platter, as a cameo
for a giant, whitened lily on a reflective pool without current,
without need for anchors, not far enough out
to have to look for harbor that should not be the default position,
and what's on the platter looks like Cindy Song, exactly
the way that I remember Cindy Song, missing since 2001,
as Utamaro divined she would be when he painted her face
and only her face in the eighteenth century, finding
what a girl would lose in the nineteen-eighties when born faceless
to a more resourceful family, the luck of existing

when there's more skill in exploiting resources, in taking
advantage of both medical and mystical advances,
so her parents lifted the face
from the painted girl who offered it to anyone in the future
who might know how to make a face stick, take vein and root
in the rich soil and dirt of evolved flesh, and become real:

Utamaro's girl did have a mask
that Cathy Song found irresistible, its extension
into a curve of shoulder like the slope of a hill
set deep in snow
in a country of huge white solemn birds.

At the end of 2003 I saw that face again detached:
a photo of Cindy that was all face, as if lifted again
from the reflective platter thousands of atoms away
from a neck powdered into existence,
and I'm not going to find Cindy with that face

that she has taken off, that flower whose wilt
she has discarded, unable to put it back on
after stepping out of her bath so refreshed,
like somebody else, the molt behind her reaching
the drain.

-Thylias Moss