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Winter 2008

In the Mirror

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The death I see
coming to me
stops to chat
more frequently.

"How's my good man?"
he asks, all grin
and bonhomie.
He can get in

any body-hole.
I squeeze mine shut,
don't even breathe.
He can hear what

I think, so I don't,
except for Go.
Because he's fast,
I try to be slow—

slow as prehistory,
slow as a stone,
slow as eternity,
slow as alone.

"I am Alone,"
he boasts. "It's fun.
I get to kiss
everyone."

His lips become
a luscious bed.
"I'll kiss you
before you're dead.

I'm the last one
you will see.
If I were you,
I'd be nicer to me."

What in the world
would that mean?
I'm afraid to ask.
Something obscene

no doubt he looks
red hot to say.
Is it possible
death is gay?

"Of course I am—
or, rather, bi-.
How do you think
women die?"

He heard my thought—
I forgot he can.
"Why would you want
to be a man?"

I finally ask aloud.
"You are thick,"
he replies. "If you were
a brick I'd be a brick.

I'm the mirror
of your sorry soul.
I reflect you
completely whole."

And when I look
I can see
him melting back
into me:

his lips, his eyes,
his razor brains.
My doughy wrinkles.
My spider veins.

—Michael Ryan



Michael Ryan won the Lenore Marshall Prize for God Hunger and the Kingsley Tufts Award for New and Selected Poems.
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