POETRY
Rembrandt with Cell Phone
by William Lessard
Writer of the Month

This camera will detect the face and show the enhanced face in real-time.

This is the message you see tonight on your phone.

The message displayed in gray bar that floats across your screen.

Usually you swipe it away, but this time you read it as you are about to take your nightly selfie.

A ritual you've been performing for the past year.

You're not sure why you do it; all you know is it makes you feel like Rembrandt.

The Old Master vibe of you alone in your chair floating against background of dark infinity.  

A regal hush in the way you hold the plastic slate in front of you.

Study your face in the liquid mirror.

The depth of circle beneath your eyes, the shadow of skull that grins at hairline.

There is something tragic and wonderful as your finger presses the screen's virtual shutter.

The old Rembrandt soul fading in camera-flash--screen freezing;

your hand drawing back familiar strangeness: a waxed truth, a person that is not a person;

smooth of skin, bright of eye, a 300dpi ghost that exists as data alone;

no soul, but a configuration of brand preferences, of predicted market behaviors;

psychograph of the blinking bipod who bought Downy paper towels instead of Brawny paper towels;

the one who decided on chicken instead of beef on the way home from work this evening.

Funny, you think, that the ghost has finally been explained.

Funny that the message has been there all along.  

You begin to swipe through your entire gallery.

You start with the photo tonight, then go back, back, back:

fat you, skinny you, drunk you, sick you, happy you, heartbroken you.

A "you" for every brand moment, yet none that captures those breaths

before the filter performs the enchantment of its enhancement.

The blurry shots of unnamable body parts, the accidents from nights

when you somehow photograph yourself tumbling drunk from taxi

or dropping your phone on sidewalk.

These are the ones that come closest to the Master,

to the decay of the old human you this phone keeps filtering out.  

You wonder if the image before the photo might be still coiled in its silicon guts.  

Ready to be summoned back to the world by checking tiny box deep within your Settings.

Just a simple fix, you think. But maybe it's better this way.

Maybe that old self is better left behind. Maybe you should thank the filter.

Dream of one with even greater powers:

Like one night, when you press the button at bedtime,

a different person is staring back. 


William Lessard has writing that has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney's, NPR, Prelude, Wired, Thought Catalog, People Holding, Drunk Monkeys, and Voicemail Poems. He won the first-annual "Bureaucratic Writing Contest" hosted by tNY.Press (formerly theNewerYork). He was recently accepted into the Ashbery Home School.