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By Mark Doty

Grateful for their tour

of the pharmacy,

the first-grade class

has drawn these pictures,

each self-portrait taped

to the window-glass,

faces wide to the street,

round and available,

with parallel lines for hair.

I like this one best: Brian,

whose attenuated name

fills a quarter of the frame,

stretched beside impossible

legs descending from the ball

of his torso, two long arms

springing from that same

central sphere. He breathes here,

on his page. It isn’t craft

that makes this figure come alive;

Brian draws just balls and lines,

in wobbly crayon strokes.

Why do some marks

seem to thrill with life,

possess a portion

of the nervous energy

in their maker’s hand?

That big curve of a smile

reaches nearly to the rim

of his face; he holds

a towering ice cream,

brown spheres teetering

on their cone,

a soda fountain gift

half the length of him

—as if it were the flag

of his own country held high

by the unadorned black line

of his arm. Such naked support

for so much delight! Artless boy,

he’s found a system of beauty:

he shows us pleasure

and what pleasure resists.

The ice cream is delicious.

He’s frail beside his relentless standard.

“Brian Age Seven” from Source by Mark Doty. Copyright © 2001 by Mark Doty. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Source (HarperCollins, 2001)

  • Activities
  • Arts & Sciences

Poet Bio

Mark Doty
Mark Doty was born in Tennessee but grew up in the American Southwest—an upbringing vividly rendered in his extraordinary 1999 autobiography Firebird. His first book of poems appeared in 1987, but it was his third, My Alexandria (1993), which brought him wide acclaim, showcasing a brilliant style and elegiac sensibility similar to those of Elizabeth Bishop. His meticulous descriptions poignantly convey the transitory beauty of life and love. See More By This Poet

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