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WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? / Jim Simmerman Halloween, 1980 It is five a.m. and the stars are still out. Like me now, they have nowhere to go— no home, that door slammed finally shut, because the backwash of choice is consequence and living with oneself. Earlier there was a party in a room like the world, too large and empty for dancing. The late hour drove a few to touch—drove a man with a face like the aftermath of drought, a woman disguised as a woman who could make it by herself. There was a Polaroid camera to witness it all, and over a hundred photographs spread across the floor— each an attempt, for once, to get it right, to see the self as other in a stunned instant of fluent light. What is wrong with this picture is always me. Always the half-smile made sadder by lamplight, the mapwork of muscles that muster a face so tentative it would shatter were someone to touch it, 34 · The Missouri Review however gently or well-wishing. In triple exposure, I am they—the disparate masks of a prior self, equivocal and unconvincing— finally assembled, finally held— to whom I might say, I was you once, but am not you now if possibility is what the past won't admit. So that to go home now is to go home alone, into the starless dawn of my new life. Jim Simmerman The Missouri Review · 35 IF / Jim Simmerman on learning of a friend's miscarriage I'm sorry. I'm not sorry. I'm not thinking how swells blossom and break beyond the horizon of this letter I'm not rereading again. Or how the sun burns through the morning haze. Or how the heart, weighed against a feather, floats like a bubble of air. Sometimes, when the sky is like this, like ghost-water, I think we have already drowned in private oceans. And I want one white feather to stand upright on the neck of that wave, breaking off that pier, where a woman is waiting beneath a blue umbrella, her ankles touching like paper orchids. J/ is the emptiest cradle I know, but I stand it, rocking here like a moored boat, humming a scrap of lullaby: When the wind blows and sailboats sheer to open sea, their sails swollen with wind, with light, I feel a needle work toward heart's north, but no home to get back to. 36 · The Missouri Review ...


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