1 The recasting of line one in line two is common to many dead man poems. This little turn holds hands with the line-as-sentence, the second angle of a second section where one might have been left to serve, and the overlapping section titles. All of it is meant to bring the reader closer, to give him or her another look.
2 "As multifarious as the wiles of a spider left to work in the bushes" was, to my mind, dead on, and thus worth many late hours of trying to stamp out my brain. It was this line in the poem which propelled me to search the physical world for masks, and to see the masks embedded in it. "Live as if you were already dead."
3 Dead man poems often contain a line listing things or concepts which are "no more." If death erases distinctions, then the one who lives as if he is already dead has no more need of them. There will be no unmasking at the ball, for there is no longer any distinction to be made between mask and face.
4 Some readers will recognize this as part of a famous definition of beauty appropriated by surrealism from The Chants of Maldorer by "Comte de Lautremont" (Isadore Ducasse).
5 The poetry of knowledge is not necessarily the poetry of truth.
6 This dead man poem ("Masks") was displayed at a Seattle art gallery along with the monotype that would later become the cover image for The Book of the Dead Man. The image is titled "Anubis," but in the gallery it was given the title of the book. After the show, when the artist, Galen Garwood, came to collect his works, a letter had been taped to the frame.
Copyright © 1996
Electronic Poetry Review