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  • John H. B. Martin

The Portrait & Other Poems

The Portrait

Imitated from the late sixteenth century

A presence is the absence of an absence

and therefore is a kind of absence too;

so, similarly, an absence is a presence

though nothing absent's present to our view:

when I breathe lightly you will disappear

beneath that breath my breath imposes, dear.

Beneath that glass your shape may tantalise

much more than when it's much less vaguely etched,

so empty spaces pullulate with light

when master craftsmen delicately sketch

the fragrant outline of some inner grace,

and so, at last, reveal your absent face.


'The child is father to the man"

The child still reaches out to touch the man;

the man still reaches back to teach the child …

How much gets lost in this unique translation?

Not everything, but almost everything!

The child full of enthusiasm for

the things of nature, for example … Till

the man betrays their living essence, when

he cuts them up, and so destroys

the undelivered child within as well.

So adolescence is the death of childhood

and furnace of eternal crucifixion

wherein three Holy Children once convened

to make a holiday of love's constriction

until a certain angel intervened.

John H.B. Martin is a poet who lives in London, England. He is a graduate of London University and Australia National University and has been writing for many decades. He has written four novels and is working on a fifth. His magnum opus is a six-volume epic poem. Most of his work is yet to be published.


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