Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2022  Vol. 21  No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Self-Portrait Using a Single Mirror

To study oneself is to see the inverse, the left
now right, your smile crooked in the other direction.
You see what others see and not what you desire.

So, an hour after sunrise, when the morning light is
most flattering, I sit and study my face in this mirror,
study how time has changed it. Time changes

everyone, but most do not see it until they are surprised
by an image caught by someone else on camera.
I need truth. I need to know the impression I offer up

if I intend to paint myself. There was a time I would have
painted myself in a heroic and exaggerated fashion,
but now I choose a realistic pose, one that feels warm

even if I am not. I model for myself. I figure I may as well
model for somebody. Rembrandt loved to model for himself,
loved to give himself his own stern and direct gaze.

For him, it was a means of documentation, a way of proving
he had been here. I do not need such documentation.
I just need to feel seen, even if only by a casual observer

like myself. Outside, the sun is rising quickly, and the
whitecaps on the ocean are now visible and bright.
The greens of things step forward and show their differences.

My face is too bland in this light and at this angle.
What I need is contrast, the sun high above so that shadows
shade the contour of my nose, accentuate my cheekbones.

Some might see this as narcissism, but it is merely a study
in chiaroscuro. Come midafternoon, come the high light,
I will return to my face fully prepared to capture its darkness.  

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