Ode to Vivian Maier (Self-Portraits)
Mercurial, this mirror magic
Street witness, a crystal ball
between her legs, her likeness, like
she’s giving birth to her-
Here’s one: department store window
shoppers, all of us, in a hall of glass
and shadow: Now you see her,
now you don’t. She’s everywhere
and nowhere… an image, breathing
in the air of others and otherness.
There she is again: upside down
inside the cigarette dispenser,
in the industrial fan, at a cozy table
for two (make that three), a shy
couple caught in the folds of her housecoat.
She’s a gumshoe sleuth, a detective
of perspective on the trail, on the move,
her evidence evolving in the slimy tray
of stop bath. Then it’s back to the office.
You’ll see that dame’s shadow through
the pebble-frosted glass before you
Shadows on a cave wall: a high heeled shoe,
a handbag, a garbage can in a blind alley.
Or, shadows on a wave calls:
in this one a horseshoe crab
over her shadow heart, its tail
pointing to a piece of driftwood,
with a rusted nail driven through:
the residue of someone else’s crucifixion.
Oh, Vivian, your fixation with your shadow
Self – your nanny props: the bicycle,
the carpet bag, the sunhat, the umbrella,
ready for any contingency to countenance
a snarling cat, your penumbra on the patina
of a silver platter, a shiny hub cap nabbed
in the glint of chrome, a rear-view mirror,
a yard sale sign, running your length-
wise shadows, against the wash of Lake Mich.
Beaches and night-stand leavings, books,
Teacups, curios, a field of buttercups, finding
Light even in street litter by shoplifting
the sheen from beauty parlour windows.
John S. O'Connor
John S. O'Connor: "I am a public school teacher outside Chicago and an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. I have written two books on the teaching of writing (Wordplaygrounds, and This Time It’s Personal), two books of haiku and a chapbook of poems called Rooting. I am finishing my debut collection Streets and Sanitation which will come out next year. I have written essays and book reviews for places like Colorado Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Ploughshares, Stoneboat, and Under the Sun. Recent essays of mine have been named Notable in Best American Essays and Best American Sportswriting."
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