“It’s a strange image you’re describing, and strange prisoners.” —Plato's Republic, Book VII Masks on masks on masks, trying to breathe through them all, and when the princess wore ten wedding gowns and made the dragon take ten layers off it was all made clear, but what to do in a world without princesses or dragons? God has given you one face and the world has given another and between the two you stretch and shape. Noh thyself, says the strange prisoner, because he’s afraid to leave, afraid of stepping in a different river each time. What did your face look like before your mother and father met? Koanonical queries don’t always hack the root, sometimes they just stir up the water and there’s not always a lotus flower, sometimes just mud for a mask. So learn Avestan, silk-square your pocket, and toast to noh gods. Only a dais ex machina here raises the dead, to be eaten by birds, so pray for a lark before it’s all kaput. Before you sit and scrape ash against bone — carry wood and chop water.
Z.T. SOKOLOSKI is a graduate student in English at UTSA.
Cover Art: Mask Still Life III, Emil Nolde, 1911, Oil on canvas (via WikiArt.org).