Missing Person

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 29 1999 3:30 AM

Missing Person

Why, like a regretful mother,
unchained ghost, do I hover
over old photos when I'm home
for Christmas or Thanksgiving,
as if I'd all along been living

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behind this time-lapse looking glass
I like to think of as my past.
Like to? But I was there, that's me
threading the hook with the worm,
me feeding cake off a knife to a groom

so sweetly, as if he were my own.
He was! Numb as a new clone,
I stare--she does--stunned, stunned:
she, to see that I appear
alone; me, to see her there

without a clue to what's all wrong
with the picture. Glaring, then gone
by the album's final blank pages,
what was missing or too much
there. I seem to need to catch

a spark of knowing in that eye,
opaque as a grape. She thinks I
will approve, imagines me the anti-
climactic aging matron of her
future: a beaming, wistful blur.

I am a blur. At least I'm not
what any camera I know has caught.
In albums, on walls, on the fridges
of friends, you can easily see it.
I've modeled myself like clothes that don't fit.

If you knew me you'd want seconds--
twins, quintuplets! There must be records
of my self-most self. Who knows?
The FBI may classify the files
holding one of my rare true smiles.

If only I could blow up corners
of snapshots taken by foreigners
where I have candidly intruded:
say at sunset, Nantucket pier,
blocking a darling Arsenio's ear

Or side by side with a Yoshiko
at Pagsanjan! There I know
the truth of who I am and was
would coincide. Me with my mother
laughing beside some Sasha or other

in Paris. Me with a serious smile
on a bench in Philadelphia, while
Wolfgang cavorts in the foreground
with Helga--photos to confirm
glimpses of being that conform

to the credible evolution of what's
really become of me. So what
if all the negatives are lost?
I know they are out there, fading
somewhere, my hairdo and dress outdating,

but not my earnest, softened gaze
as one of your hands touched my face
and our two shadows between us
fused darkly in the piazza at noon
just beyond Dieter or Hans, that June.

J. Allyn Rosser teaches at Ohio University and is the author of Foiled Again. She teaches at Ohio University, where she edits New Ohio Review.

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