by Afaa Michael Weaver

I see myself in the shadows of a leaf
compressed to the green blades growing
to a point like the shards of miles of mirrors
falling and cracking to perfect gardens.

I never inspect the withered assumption
of my face’s petty dialogue in raindrops,
the deceptive spreading of the words
oozing from the skin to the edges of water
etched on the ground by gravity and wishing.

Passing for the seriousness of my eye,
platitudes of my white collar or
the perfect posture of my lips, it skirts
from the leaves of the plant hiding me
and sits stoic like stone in my pupil,
mute and unassuming, like Rashi.

To gather myself I will swim naked
in the wind, bending my blind elbows
in circles, stopping now to dance
like the cherubic gold on the ark,
and gather myself from the particles
of this excitement another structure,
one closely resembling the beginning.

SOURCE: “Self Portrait” appears in Afaa Michael Weaver’s collection Multitudes: Poems Selected & New (Sarabande Books, 2000), available at

IMAGE: “Self-Portrait by Sun and Grass” by Chuck Taylor. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Afaa Michael Weaver was born Michael S. Weaver to working class parents in 1951. Weaver entered the University of Maryland at age 16, studying for two years before leaving to marry and take a job in a Baltimore factory owned by Bethlehem Steel. After military service, in 1971, Weaver was hired as a semi-skilled worker at Procter & Gamble in Baltimore. In 1985, and still a factory worker, he received a fellowship from the NEA — and his first book of poetry, Water Song, was published that year. That falll, Weaver entered the Brown University graduate writing program and finished his BA at the University of the State of New York. After graduation, he taught at several colleges before landing an appointment at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, where he received tenure with distinction as an early candidate. Weaver is the author of over a dozen poetry collections and has  had two plays produced professionally. His awards include a Pew Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, a May Sarton Award, and the PDI Award in playwriting from the eta Creative Arts Theatre in Chicago. Visit him at