by Alan Passman

When face-to-face, eye-to-eye
with myself in the mirror,
I see my parents.

My father’s broad isosceles
of a nose, hooked and unforgiving;
his roundness and lack of a virile
jawline that is instead a pendulous
and sagging second chin.

My mother’s dulled, foggy emerald
green eyes pierce back at me as they
trace up my forehead to her father’s
vampiric widow’s peak: a hairline
that recedes with every year
like said grandfather from my life.

I spy the heritage I really know nothing
about: family that fled from pogroms,
that lived and died in Tolstoy’s time,
that crossed the ocean with hope
brimming in their hearts for US
streets paved with gold.

I see what have become my sartorial
trademarks: red glasses and a beard.
The latter’s a point of pride and envy
with friends, foes, and strangers alike.
Former’s just a distracting affectation,
something to keep from homogenously
blending in with the crowd.

I see the cleft in my nose that I loathe
and I see my eyebrows that most
women would achieve by enduring
the pain of plucking and threading.

I see my lips, the feature that most
of the women I’ve been with have said
is my best feature. They’ve been
described as “thin yet plump.”

Whatever . . .

IMAGE: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Marvel illustrated edition, 2007), cover art by Gerald Parel.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some people subscribe to the idea that you should free-write everyday until something sticks. Others are all about waiting for the muse to whisper in their ears. I find myself somewhere in-between. Sometimes a line or an image will pop into my head, and I’ll try to capture it. Then there are the moments were I doodle pictures, mostly of The Simpsons or the Ninja Turtles, and scribble lines out of boredom during professional enrichment meetings that we educators have to endure a couple times a semester — but with a poem like this that has a prompt and a project attached to it, the strictures and limitations actually aid you in that they force you to have a clear idea of what you’re trying to craft with each line, each stanza until you have something to write home about.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Passman is a man who strives for impossibility. His aesthetic is one that blends blatant pop cultural nerdery with red-hot, American male deviancy. He’s been published in Crack the Spine, Carnival, Bank Heavy Press, and, coming this fall, he will be featured in Multiverse: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry of Superhuman Proportions from Write Bloody Publishing. He received his BA and MFA from California State University, Long Beach, for Creative Writing and Poetry respectively. Currently, he teaches English at Long Beach City College.