A Painting of Pan

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Nov. 27 1996 3:30 AM

A Painting of Pan

("He who feeds")

To hear the poet read "A Painting of Pan," click here or on the title.

I wasn't afraid of the painting of Pan
mounting the nymph from behind, seizing her.
I wasn't afraid of crossing the room
to study it, under the burning chandelier.

But when I saw the god's animal eyes--
glittering, heedless, intent--
and how the girl looked back at him
with a half-curious, half-panicky stare

I remembered how you looked at me
across the reeling party that night
and how, later, when I touched your arm
something flickered on your face--

open and feral, frank. A hunted look.
A kind of tenderness toward the hunter.
A perception of everything sordid
that was going to happen between us.

Look at me, I said later in bed,
and you looked up with my wet food
smeared across your parted lips
and I saw it flickering again--

that creature trapped in your eyes,
that tenderness toward the predator
I'd become, one who feeds off others,
that look of haunted recognition.

Edward Hirsch's most recent book of poetry is Earthly Measures.