Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Excerpt (first 57 lines) from Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975)

        As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
	Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
	And swerving easily away, as though to protect
	What it advertises.  A few leaded panes, old beams,
	Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together
	In a movement supporting the face, which swims
	Toward and away like the hand
	Except that it is in repose.  It is what is
	Sequestered.  Vasari says, “Francesco one day set himself
	To take his own portrait, looking at himself for that purpose
	In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers…
	He accordingly caused a ball of wood to be made
	By a turner, and having divided it in half and
	Brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself
	With great art to copy all that he saw in the glass,”
	Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait
	Is the reflection once removed.
	The glass chose to reflect only what he saw
	Which was enough for his purpose: his image
	Glazed, embalmed, projected at a 180-degree angle.
	The time of day or the density of the light
	Adhering to the face keeps it
	Lively and intact in a recurring wave
	Of arrival.  The soul establishes itself.
	But how far can it swim out through the eyes
	And still return safely to its nest?  The surface
	Of the mirror being convex, the distance increases
	Significantly; that is, enough to make the point
	That the soul is a captive, treated humanely, kept
	In suspension, unable to advance much farther
	Than your look as it intercepts the picture.
	Pope Clement and his court were “stupefied”
	By it, according to Vasari, and promised a commission
	That never materialized.  The soul has to stay where it is,
	Even though restless, hearing raindrops at the pane,
	The sighing of autumn leaves thrashed by the wind,
	Longing to be free, outside, but it must stay
	Posing in this place.  It must move
	As little as possible.  This is what the portrait says.
	But there is in that gaze a combination
	Of tenderness, amusement and regret, so powerful
	In its restraint that one cannot look for long.
	The secret is too plain.  The pity of it smarts,
	Makes hot tears spurt: that the soul is not a soul,
	Has no secret, is small, and it fits
	Its hollow perfectly: its room, our moment of attention.
	That is the tune but there are no words.
	The words are only speculation
	(From the Latin speculum, mirror):
	They seek and cannot find the meaning of the music.
	We see only postures of the dream,
	Riders of the motion that swings the face
	Into view under evening skies, with no
	False disarray as proof of authenticity.
	But it is life englobed.
	One would like to stick one’s hand
	Out of the globe, but its dimension,
	What carries it, will not allow it.