Mudlark Flash No. 15 (2002)

Matthew Rossi

Matthew Rossi is a writer and actor living in the Chicago area. He is a recent grauduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville where he studied (among other things) Playwriting, Psychology, and the Theater of the Absurd.

Face Mongers

In eastern European port cities
Sailors sell faces in the open-air market
Every morning men in wool sweaters
Unload their wares into wooden troughs
Piling the flesh in towers
Like leather hats at a rummage sale

Go buy your face early
When the sun is just beginning to rise
Before the coming of the seagulls
Who treat the precious capital like carrion
Picking and tearing
Making lepers of healthy men
Buy before the masks can dry
Before they grow taut and crisp
Before the lines of old ladies
In black silk dresses
Who jitter and complain
And inspect every face with a jeweler's eye

“This one's not fresh!
What can I do with a face
Deprived of its elastic?”

“Cover it in mink's oil,
Mother,” laugh the sailors through cigars in their teeth
“It's good enough for the cobbler
The fat will keep you youthful and tanned
Give you that swarthy Latin appeal
So popular with the kids these days.”

Every day the citizens buy new faces
Everyone is everyone else
Girl faced young men become
Stubble chinned Turkish lovers
Rat faced hoboes trade it in
For the finery of a rich man

A husband comes home to his wife
Wearing the face of her brother
She greets him at the door in his grandmother's mask
They have a laugh at themselves kissing in the mirror
Before sitting down to a nice meal

“He slurps the way Karl did,”
She thinks, dunking a chunk of black bread into her soup,
“He treats me like a child, too.”

“How dare she try to wear that face.”
He glowers over the goulash,
“Nowhere near the elegant woman Nanna was.”

They wander to bed in silence
And stare aside as they make love
They say nothing of their thoughts to each other
In the morning when they rise
They go to the mirror to probe
The black silk stitching
Just to feel if the original blood still flows beneath

Copyright © Mudlark 2002
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