Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Who's Joking with the Photographer? (Photographs of Myself Approaching Seventy)

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Who's Joking with the Photographer? (Photographs of Myself Approaching Seventy)

Article excerpt

Not my final face, a map of how to get there. Seven ages, seven irreversible layers, each subtler and more supple than a snake's skin. Nobody looks surprised when we slough off one and begin to inhabit another.

Do we exchange them whole in our sleep, or are they washed away in pieces, cheek by brow by chin, in the steady abrasions of the solar shower? Draw first breath, and time turns on its taps. No wonder the newborn's tiny face crinkles and cries: chill, then a sharp collision with light, the mouth's desperation for the foreign nipple, all the uses of eyes, ears, hands still to be learned before the self pulls away in its skin-tight sphere to endure on its own the tectonic geology of childhood.

Imagine in space-time irretrievable mothers viewing the pensioners their babies have become. "Well, that's life, nothing we can do about it now." They don't love us as much as they did, and why should they? We have replaced them. Just as we're being replaced by big sassy kids in school blazers. Meanwhile, Federal Express has delivered my sixth facegrandmother's, scraps of me grafted to her bones. I don't believe it. Who made this mess, this developer's sprawl of roads that can't be retaken, high tension wires that run dangerously under the skin? What is it the skeptical eyes are saying to the twisted lips: ambition is a cliche; beauty, a banality? In any case, this face has given them up-old friends whose obituaries it reads in the mirror with scarcely a regret. …

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