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My fifth entry in the self-portrait marathon

But really, is this the face of an artist? Who am I kidding? Not my wise friends the flies, who rub their forefeet together in a travesty of devotion. En boca cerrada no entran moscas — flies don’t enter a closed mouth, says the Mexican proverb. But when is my mouth ever really closed, except for the fraction of a second that the camera shutter is open? Let the saints train their tongues to lie still as stones & their eyes to gaze modestly at their navels. It’s sheer hypocrisy to praise the open tomb while preparing oneself for the sealed reliquary. And in any case, the crawling faithful prefer the glistening surfaces of breasts or buttocks, with those dark & inviting hollows in between.

“First of all as to the patient’s face,” says Hippocrates: “does it resemble or not the face of persons in good health, and especially does it resemble itself?” This is what I’m wondering, my faithful physicians, health care in this country being as moribund as it is. You can rub your hands together all you want — you won’t get a dime of insurance out of me! Do I look like a rich man to you? Does my face have the unnatural glow of those who frequent health clubs with mirrored walls or fly airplanes into skyscrapers?

What you call dyslexia, I call poetry: an affliction in which nothing resembles itself, ever. A great poet like Eugénio de Andrade exceeds himself at every turn. Esta noite preciso de outro verí£o sobre a boca crescendo nem que seja de rastros, he wrote — “This night I need another summer on my mouth, gathering, even at a crawl.”

Would you recognize your own face if you saw it coming toward you down the street, without the usual soundtrack running through your head? Would you welcome it as an end to exile, or would you get out the flyswatter & the can of Raid? “Mama get your hatchet,” begged the bluesman Furry Lewis, “kill the fly on your baby’s head.” Buddhahood, they say, can be hazardous to your health. Best to go meditate on a corpse.

12 Replies to “Flies”

  1. The nice thing is that we don’t have to recognize ourselves; it’s only other people who do. If other people don’t recognize us, we’re in trouble, huh (why do you always make me laugh so hard?).

    Now, Dave, about the flies. Don’t you think it’s time to draw yourself?

  2. Dave, you have literally placed us outside of ourselves in this piece of writing. You have introduced me to myself. It’s a great thought: would we recognize ourselves passing by. The image immediately gives me the sense of what I would like about myself passing by, and what I would not. This type of clarity from musing on a image seems very Buddhist to me indeed. Non-verbal (in this case visual) communication.

    I never knew what the phrase “kill the Buddha” meant and I just love the phrase now that I understand the meaning. Yet I’m torn, because it seems to me I like the phrase too much. Maybe I should kill the phrase – let it go. No attachment. But I’m not sure I can.

    By the way, I’ve got no problem with the flies. Just didn’t know whether they were real or superimposed. I have had the experience in remote locations where I surrendered to flies.

  3. Also, I just noticed the flies are only on one side of your face. Am I reading too much into that? A sort of facial yin/yang symbol? No need to clarify – the great thing about an image is that there is not really a right/wrong way to interpret it. We bring our own thoughts to the image of course.

  4. Thanks for the comments. Sorry i didn’t get a chance to respond sooner…

    If other people don’t recognize us, we’re in trouble, huh

    Twenty years ago, I was in that situation. My parents met me at the Osaka international airport and didn’t recognize me; a year in Japan had changed me that much. I am a chameleon.

    Curiously, my son and I were talking about whether we would recognize ourselves walking down the street. He doesn’t think he would.

    Me neither. (I love these kinds of coincidences!)

    I never knew what the phrase “kill the Buddha� meant and I just love the phrase now that I understand the meaning.

    That’s cool. I wasn’t 100% sure I liked the site I linked to, but it was the best I could find and got the drift of it well enough, I think.

    Also, I just noticed the flies are only on one side of your face. Am I reading too much into that?

    Probably, yes.

    O, vile reptilian post-modernist!

    – Percy Bysshe Silly

    I guess I am enough of a post-modernist to love this kind of comment!

    Good point, suzanne.

  5. I was mulling over the flies on the sunward side, too (coming up with “dark side of the moon” analogies and the like), then just chalked it up to graphic aesthetics. That is, if one could apply aesthetics to the flies.

    I did once have a dream in which I was looking at a picture of myself — a photograph from waking life that I like — and didn’t recognize the woman. I felt an affinity for her, though.

  6. That is, if one could apply aesthetics to the flies.

    Of course. Why not?

    But the truth of the matter is that the fly photo patches I was pasting onto the main photo were too light; I couldn’t get them dark enough so they wouldn’t look weird on the dark side of the face.

    That’s a cool dream! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Oh my …. the flies.

    Would we recognise ourselves passing by? I think probably yes, if we were vigilant.

    *What you call dyslexia I call poetry*.
    To take away and think about.

    And this is totally the wrong place to put it but I have just noticed I’m in your side column, Dave. Thanks. I’m really flattered – more than you know.

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