Laura J Braverman – The Mask’s Request

Profile Laura J Braverman LE Poetry & Writing May 2018

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The Mask’s Request, poems by Laura J Braverman

Laura J. Braverman is a writer and artist. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and studied poetry and essay with Stanford University, Bennington College and the New School. Her poetry has appeared in Levure Litteraire, Live Encounters, The BeZINE, California Quarterly and Mediterranean Poetry. She lives in Lebanon and Austria with her family.


the scent of wood
as it bakes in sunlight
and stones
along the path born
from lava broth
now covered
with damp moss.


long shadows
of tree trunks
down the hill
bright fingertips
of new pine
in spring,
prehistoric furls
of lichen—
reminding us
how much the sea
once hid.


speckled riverbed
pebbles, cairns
we stack to mark
our presence,
the stone
I leave
on my father’s grave—
reminding me
of what is changeless.


the conversation
of leaves
and woodpecker’s nimble
my mother
who praises the sun.


made from titan
collisions—now still
but not voiceless.


the call of all
this—rousing us
to be better,
to shrug off our cages
to offer not-knowing
our faith.

The Mask’s Request

I’m on retreat in the Finsterwald—
the dark wood—home to the Black Madonna,
Our Lady of Hermits.

I stand still, at the center
of a disc-shaped room. Windows frame
fields below leaden clouds.
I hold a plaster mask
in my hands—a mess of a muddled
mask with jarring
colors and glued-on feathers.
It’s far from pretty—far
from perfect: the rage of neglected
parts given form in shadow face.

The Swiss art guide has silvery
horsetail hair and maiden eyes. Gently,
she warns me
when I put paint to paper:
We’re done with perfection now—aren’t we?
I paint my own dark
mother on papers taped together.

The women in the group sit along
the room’s periphery. Their support is silent.
I dare my twenty-year old fatigue
to stay silent too—
hide my face
in the mask. It prods my limbs,
the poor plaster thing
then slowly it persuades my old lead burden
of fatigue to lighten—
the electric mutiny of anxiety to soften.

I become a waterfall
instead of someone sick. I’m a tree:
my new rough arms bend with wind’s
orchestration. I am wind—
then, watch,
I fly. I’m a falcon
and a falcon is the sun. No more hiding
from the sun. Now I screech
in high-pitched jabs. My wings tear sky
where air is thin—
then take me hurtling
down towards a river there.
I land by water’s edge. I’m a child.
Look: I dance. I dance,
my leg stretched long
in arabesque—my pink-hosed little girl’s
leg—as in Miss Denise’s class
when I had no thought
for measuring life by capfuls.

And here—here are my hands.
Small hands!
They cup the glacial water.
I swallow what has melted down from peak
and frost, and ask, Will you change me?
I’ve been ill so long.

© Laura J. Braverman