I imagine we have all had the experience of being mysteriously drawn to a face, perhaps only glimpsed in passing, as if it held something important to us, yet having no time to work out what that it is and being left only with a vague regret for what might have been. This poem by Douglas Dunn captures that experience with a wistful exactitude.
Where do they go?
Where do they go, the faces, the people seen
In glances and longed for, who smile back
Wondering where the next kiss is coming from?
They are seen suddenly, from the top decks of buses,
On railway platforms at the tea machine,
When the sleep of travelling makes us look for them.
A whiff of perfume, an eye, a hat, a shoe,
Bring back vague memories of names,
Thingummy, that bloke, what’s-her-name.
What great thing have I lost, that faces in a crowd
Should make me look at them for one I know,
What are faces that they must be looked for?
But there’s one face, seen only once,
A fragment of a crowd. I know enough of her,
That face makes me dissatisfied with myself.
Those we secretly love, who never know of us,
What happens to them? Only this is known,
They will never meet us suddenly in pleasant rooms.