Hand with Reflecting Globe

As Escher did it, the left hand
As big as the globe, holding it for the viewer
And extending easily into and out of
The reflection, as though to offer what it advertises.
A few upholstered chairs, square tables,
Artworks, a shaded lamp, a bookshelf run across
The wall in a movement supporting the face, which holds
The viewer’s gaze like the hand
Except its place is in the globe only. It is what is
Sequestered. Hoogewerff says, “Every one of Escher’s plates
Is a résumé, gives a quintessence, a synthesis
Of observed reality and that mostly in a constructive way.
And the reality appears to be
Not only what can be said to have been sensed accurately,
But what has been experienced intensely . . .
If necessary, he constructs for himself his own world,”
Which, here, is his reflection
Held with a hand connected to him by logic alone.
The globe chose to show only what he saw,
Yet he drew more than what he could’ve possibly seen
In it: the blurred space behind it and his hand.
The time of day or the density of the light
Uniting with the face keeps it
Acute and incisive in a fixed jet
Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.
But how far can it shoot out through the eyes?
And the surface, its edge
Extended over solely by the hand; that is enough
To make the point that the soul is free
And constant, insofar as it articulates the globe,
Keeps it suspended, even if to advance
No further than your look
As you take the place
Of the face in the reflection.

I look at myself
Write, and in all respects
Am transfixed with a curve as old as breathing,
The same curve a reflection of space would have if fit
Tight over Earth’s surface, like a canvas,
Same a coveted bauble
Come in a fish-eye lens has,
And the same as Ashbery and motions of waves
Reflected in a convex mirror.
I would ask these artists, Why a mirror?
Or the same question:
Isn’t the self better imagined with just moves,
The ones with which dreams lapse
Like a wave breaking on a rock, giving up
Its shape in a gesture which expresses that shape?
Moves and dreams issue from selves,
Cascades of origin,
Like tides are issues of atmospheric bend.
Mirrors, though, are all lines and points,
Geometry, divisions of planes, however curved.
The globe, dreams and moves
Become formalized in mirrors.
Points of contact and parallels with
Reflections define them.
And maybe that’s my answer: Parmigianino
Replaced the mirror with brush strokes.
He made a mirror more than itself, even if
Just for a few moments in a poet’s imagination.
The issue was to avoid reduction. And Escher,
His gesture, which holds something
Of both nothing and texture,
Affirms some power of the hand, a peculiar strength that intrudes
On a mirror silently, as if considering a portrait.
Ashbery writes on, a breeze like the turning of a page
Brings back your face
And the moment
Takes such a big bite out of the haze
Of pleasant intuition it comes after.
No breeze in Escher’s drawing, just soft touches.
The thumb and little finger each
Kiss their image at the globe’s edge, like pool balls,
And continuous with the big bite
Taken by the hand
Off what surrounds the globe.
For Escher, the hand’s reality is unmistakable:
The hand is pure will.
The face is held in place,
Will is merged with image.
Could Ashbery have confused his
With Parmigianino’s? Is that the pleasant intuition that precedes the moment?
I’ve confused mine with faces I’ve seen in mirrors,
In mirrors as I age, and in poems and stories and portraits of others.
It’s a weird confusion. One realizes
Something, a little half-globe I could paint on
—Things like beach and water, but nothing like them really
—One might try to look around
But a bite takes off whatever pushes past any horizon.
A breeze, a moment, then a wound
To what can only be called a second sight,
All while attempting to trace some curve the whole way through,
And it might have begun pleasantly.
I write on, my sort of paint, and the voice
Is only speculation, from the Latin speculum,
Mirror. It shows but isn’t the globe.

Why must Ashbery use the word bite?
Why not use drift, change the metaphor?
Bite is so violent. What does he mean?
Action of the face is violent?
Then how much more is action of the hand?
The issue may have been to absorb Escher,
Absorb displaying the self so freely,
The reflective face and its world held—fingers’ facts.
Absorb showing that what should be the vacuum of a dream
Becomes continually replete as the source of dreams
Is being tapped so this one dream
May wax, flourish like a glassy toy leaving us
To awake and try to begin living in what
Has become a slum, where speculation lives
Only if it means intimation and creation,
Words with curious stories.
Intimation once meant a declaration of war,
And creation had an early while
When it meant investment of rank, title, or status.
In this slum, intimations are what looks give,
And looks are creations that act on me
And are acted on by me, whether I see them or not.
Maybe Parmigianino is right:
Paint over speculation, if the world, dreams and moves,
Must be reduced to surface, plane geometry. At least
there will be some art in it.
And Escher, then, is a jester spinning a crass truth: the hand
Is not a gentle giant but a division of us
That can at any moment shatter the globe,
A will that can break the surface,
Grasp the only stuff beyond it
—Some imagined form, a continual division of surfaces
Whose figures determine just that they can be re-figured
—And rewrite it.

I close my eyes while I write
And realize I’ve opened them.
I write: the eyes of my eyes are open:
I see myself how I’m seen.
I stand naked and predictable
In a small room.
I stand thoroughly explained
By formulae I’ll never know
But think of in a bantam space
Persons I’ll never know built.
And any depth to me or the room
Bulges strangely, so to transfer itself
Out from itself and exist only at edges
Of my vision. A symbol of articulation,
A hand, an artwork, a voice,
Is my prominent detail, from any view,
And the rest are waved away.
I walk around the room,
And my recent past arrives like a sea,
So to remember is now
To be in phases of my time at a university,
In moves, waves that turn everything they touch
Round and forth scrupulously. This is what new means: change of study.
I turn to see my reflection, and once I do I start dividing
My past to get at more of it, to get at subtleties
Made by learning, thinking made by those memories.
My degree in English writing heralded derivatives of it, further degrees,
And became power to figure
My internal atmosphere in terms of my external one.
Likenesses, metaphors, grew—tagging and tracking abstractions turned vital.
Time at the university was like waves, a metaphor. I was like the ability to view myself,
A metaphor. Maybe art exhibits are beach walks
While education is a swim for years in a sea.
My degrees were fingers, phalanges,
Starts of articulation that ended flattened
So their surfaces turned to core,
And mine with them, for the better.
Like a palm, a shield, an expression,
All flattened articulations, necessities that turn surfaces to core.
And those metaphors, englobed as in a hand that cups a sip,
Looked caught, suspended on a jet of clarity, a line:
The degree’s generations
(What it generated and its own past):
Palm and shield, and expression, the Greek ἔκφρασις,
Are tropes of war, too (as any time is of space).

The bite follows me even here, tense in speculation.
Definitions of self are shot through with trauma,
Affirmations of history’s violence—dismal, self-violence.
Ashbery’s answer: let waves put a spin on it; I’ll watch the spin,
But not long enough to see it look like no spin at all.
The likeness, wave for inertia, it’s a trick.
It only makes sense if waves are constant,
Pressed on surfaces uniformly,
Like poetic techniques, or like a portrait
Presses on the image of the portrayed,
Or a moment. I’m looking at myself, and I’ve seen enough,
Seen the big curve shot through me,
Seen I’ve turned from likenesses to attempts at substitution,
And I’ll only be drawn more
By something I can imagine as a hand I’ll never see but feel,
That figures me as seen.
Seeing a man as seen is like cleaving him
And filling palettes with what defines him.
It’s seeing all differences sufficient to have made him,
Sufficient to have made a substitute.
Then it’s having something over him, perhaps.
So I divide further.