Green Hills Literary Lantern



Self Portrait



Looking up from the paper to stare out the window

where my image is reflected like a vanished twin.


They’ve found it, the God particle, it had to exist,

the math’s too ugly otherwise, but now it’s physical.


Smash together protons at the speed of light

and there, for one-billionth of a second, it is.


Like molasses, they say, and haloed in darkness,

that which endows creation with mass.


Like the tiny drops of white in the black pools of eyes

in the Rembrandt Self-Portait at the Frick.


And the glowing speck of silver

on the top of his cane; the furrows of light


spilling down his chest, the golden paint-splattered apron,

cinched by a shadowy cord and a loose crimson sash.


Enthroned and self-annointed, he’s fathered himself,

but also—pink blotch on the cheek, the whole face


battered like an old newborn—he’s his mother, too.

Split a proton and there’s God inside. This is not news


to God. But now and if you understand the numbers

it’s Him and us face-to-face. Finally. Our kind


has figured it out and our kind has seen it.

No eye contact whatsoever, though, at the Frick.


Stand there all day, he looks right through you

from under the brim of the Master’s hat,


half his face in shadow. He’s face-to-face

with something, himself, if nothing else,


endowing creation with mass. Call it

Self-Portrait: you watching him watching that.


Murray Silverstein’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Hunger Mountain, West Marin Review, Brooklyn Review, RUNES, Zyzzyva, Nimrod, Spillway and other journals. His first book of poems, Any Old Wolf (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2006), received an Independent Publisher’s award. Also for Sixteen Rivers, he edited the anthology, The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (2010). A practicing architect and co-author of A Pattern Language, Silverstein lives in Oakland, California.