There has never been a naked face;
perhaps ghosts or angels have it, or the dead
whose images outlast them: but bare-eyed,
the mouth only a mouth, the lines untied,
is not a living face: faces wear moods for dress.
The mask, its artifice of power or grace,
thought led by the masker across wood,
metal or paper, is the shell of a mood
stripped off and living: the mask does not hide,
but chooses limits, being chosen to express.
I have seen the lineaments of a place
unmask suddenly as a rising bird;
a torn-out page: so human faces could
lose their bright meaning plaster, and have died
into an echo's firm impersonal absences.
These masks and statues of an ancient race,
expressive bandages for limb and head,
living on history, like a fallen god,
were greater than the hollowness they hid.
What is it now speaks through their mouths, looks through their eyes?