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Standing Profile

Standing Profile

Robin Jordan

1.-Brogers_Figure-72.jpg

Figure 72: This shows the eleven facial profile fiducials that are most often used in facial analysis, and will be used in this chapter. The fiducials are numbered from top to bottom: (1) forehead, (2) glabella, (3) nassion (bridge of nose), (4) pronasale (tip of nose), (5) subnasale (base of nose), (6) labiale superius (top lip), (7) stomion (middle of lips), (8) labiale inferius (bottom lip), (9) supramenton, (10) menton (chin), and (11) throat.

A man in a suit and brimmed hat smokes a cigarette on an enormous stack of books, at least seven stories tall, so he can see the sun graze the ocean beyond the tallest city buildings. Seagulls fly below him as he teeters, hands in pockets. He is standing profile to me. Everything is stippled.

When you bring your face close to the postcard, it looks like a layer of static. Nowhere to send a postcard, I almost put it back and walked out the store. But then I realized I didn't want to send it anywhere. On the back, the postcard says:

Quint Buchholz 'Die Bibliothek'

Aus Dem 'Buchbilderbuch',

Sanssouci-Verlag

The stippled man stands now on my desk in a cheap gold frame, his head tipped down.

Natural Head Position is defined as "a standardized and reproducible orientation of the head in space when focusing on a distal point at eye level." I wonder why stippled man's Natural Head Position is tipped down. The weight of his cigarette maybe, or it could be that the ocean is below him, or that when he walks he likes to look at feet. Maybe he likes shoes. Maybe he's a Midwesterner.

His fiducials 6–10 (from labiale superius to menton) are slightly retrusive, like he's bitten a lemon. Johann Kaspar Lavater would probably say stippled man's profile is phlegmatic.

A phlegmatic's profile looks like this:

2.-Brogers_Phlegmatic.jpg

Ignore the pronasale. Stippled man's pronasale is sharp, like my father's. Think acerbity: limes, pickles, crab apple wars. Lavater says, "A phlegmatic person is not easily aroused to excitement and lacks emotion expression." The stippled man doesn't smile; his hands stay in his pockets.

It is awful and wonderful to watch a person face something you're not.

When I recall my father's profile, with its slight labiales and retrusive fiducials, it is always blue with a cigarette dipping from his stomion towards his throat. His chair, where he laughed, was ringed with burns. I would look at him, sometimes, when he stopped, to make sure his eyes were open.

When I recall my father's profile, with its slight labiales and retrusive fiducials, it is always blue with a cigarette dipping from his stomion towards his throat. His chair, where he laughed, was ringed with burns. I would look at him, sometimes, when he stopped, to make sure his eyes were open. Lavatar was right; as my father aged his lower eyelids fell away from his eyeballs. It was his "physiodelectatiousness" or his "disposition and inclination for sensual delights" that made his eyelids do that, "as if tired by their situation or weary in assisting the eyes to such low desires." He died in the passenger seat of the Saturn, profile to my mother. The stippled man's eyes are open. If he dropped his cigarette, it would go out by the time it hit the street.

"Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon," Melville challenged, "What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep." To watch someone look at the ocean is like looking at the ocean: you feel the pull and sway just as they do; you feel, as they do, that no matter how far you reach, you can never close the distance. Wallace Stevens would call this the "dumbfoundering abyss."

My mother and Thor took my sister and me to Mackinac Island to sprinkle Bob into Lake

Huron since the ocean was so far. Bob was my mother's childhood best friend; Thor his lover. I was thirteen, hiding my first period, being forced to ride a rented bike along the lake's unsteady shore. Just past Devil's Kitchen, we left our wheels and teetered across the black rocks. Fifty feet up shore, insides gnawing, I watched my mother and Thor look at the water's crumpled surface. My mother's hair churned up around her, showing her profile.

Ever since the car accident her fiducials 6–9 have had a swollenness to them. Lavater says this is "where the love of liquid first manifests itself." He would say my mother's profile is aquasorbitive. Aquasorbitives have "a relish for water, an appreciation and love of water drinking, water scenery, bathing, etc." My mother loves to swim. She was a lifeguard once, but my older sister almost drowned on her watch, and I was almost murdered by a boy who tried to hold my head under indefinitely in the deep end. She spends a good amount of time in the bathtub, and reuses and freezes the same water bottle over and over, but lives in an aquasorbitive's Hell. It's called Sjögren's syndrome. Her white blood cells war against their moisture-producing glands. Her mouth is always dry, and although she cries easy, so are her eyes. Ulcers sprout on them so that it hurts when she sees.

I have only one memory of my mother's father. He's driving me to get a donut in the white Chevy Caprice Classic my mother will inherit after he dies. He smokes a cigar with the windows cracked. Something, baseball maybe, plays on the radio. I want to look in the glove box. When he sets down the cigar, I wonder why his mouth always gapes. My grandfather's protrusive labiale inferius shines, quivers when we hit potholes. I don't remember if he liked me. "His profile is choleric," Lavater would say, "This means he has a hot temperament, is irritable and easily roused to anger," he would continue. Like this man:

3.-Brogers_Choleric.jpg

My grandfather's protrusive labiale inferius shines, quivers when we hit potholes. I don't remember if he liked me.

I don't remember him turning to speak to me. I remember wanting to look in the glove box. I've forgotten his name.

I am following a neighbor I've never seen down our dimly damp hallway, flowers beneath our shoes that not even stippled man would find tilt-faced or shivering in the wide open. Standing before our doors, we search for our keys.

It's how we show we're lonely, standing profile.

Lavater would have described his own profile as sanguine, which he claimed represents confidence and optimism. They say all of this is bogus. And yet, it should be noted that Lavater was said to have been shot for his vanity by a grenadier during the French occupation of Switzerland. Interestingly, he was not shot in the face and, thus, was left to suffer for a year until he died.

I prefer my left side. The slope from my nassion to my pronasale smoother; my moles more symmetrically placed. Perhaps Lavater would say I'm slightly phlegmatic, which would explain why my mother said I don't care enough when things die, which helps these pills keep me from crying.

I examine all eleven of my neighbor's fiducials. His glabella just barely closes in on itself and his hand pauses on the brassy glow as if remembering his ex-wife's small fist in his palm as they watched, once, a storm inflate its chest above the water. Then we let loose our doors, spilling through our doorways, profiles first.

Robin Lee Jordan received her MFA in poetry from Oregon State University and has published prose (alice blue review, Puerto del Sol, A cappella Zoo) and poetry (H_NGM_N, 42opus, Toe Good Poetry). She is the Writing Center Coordinator at Just Buffalo Literary Center, the founder of the (B)uffalo (A)rt (D)ispensary, and is currently guest-editing an edition of Toe Good Poetry. 

Illustration by Bobby Rogers.

Sourced Texts:

O'Mara, David Thomas John. "Automated Facial Metrology." Digital Theses Repository, 2002.

Bass, N.M. "Measurement of the profile angle and the aesthetic analysis of the facialprofile." Journal of Orthodontics, 30.1 (2003).

Hager, Joseph C. "Physiognomy as Practiced in Europe." Dataface, 2003.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. 3-4.

Out There

Out There

The Eye

The Eye