The Face Imagination Gave Me

by Kevin Mann

What did your face look like
before your parents were born?

—Zen Koan

When I was seven I wore a mask for the first time,
the head of a lion, hand-painted,

whiskered and grinning.

That night I prowled my childhood
neighborhood, clawed at doors,

took candy from strangers.

The world was small then, my face
encased in cardboard, thin slits for eyes,

and still I remember, even at seven,
sailing inwards, watching the dance of a candle

flickering in the belly of a gourd.

I watched it shift shape, twitch
to reinvent itself again and again,

capable in that green dim night
of blooming into anything—

cliff birds rising on warm
volcanic swells,

a fox in the forest, cackling
on its back in the ferns.

I grew light.
Knew that I too was ember,

flickering mystery,

neither boy nor lion.

Kevin Mann is a twenty-four-year old photographer and poet who currently works at Malaprop’s Bookstore in downtown Asheville. He enjoys husks, hymns, and hums.

About The Face Imagination Gave Me—This poem was inspired by the idea of masks and the flickering mystery that burns inside us all.